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NSW signs up to national rail safety law

NSW becomes third state to adopt legislation creating the National Rail Safety Regulator to provide cross-border consistency

By Brad Gardner October 25, 2012

The number of jurisdictions signed up to national rail regulations has grown to three, with New South Wales passing legislation yesterday.

The Rail Safety (Adoption of National Law) Bill, which will establish the National Rail Safety Regulator (NRSR), cleared both houses of Parliament with bipartisan support.

NSW joins South Australia and Tasmania in passing the reform, with other jurisdictions expected to do the same in the coming months to allow the regulator to begin operating on January 1 next year.

It will replace the seven regulatory authorities and three investigative agencies currently in place.

It will have oversight of urban passenger rail networks and interstate freight operations and is part of reforms that will also establish single regulators for the heavy vehicle and maritime sectors.

“Under the new system, businesses will have to gain accreditation only once and will be covered for operation right across Australia,” Parliamentary Secretary John Ajaka says.

“That will mean less time dealing with red tape and more time doing what we want businesses to be doing: increasing productivity, strengthening the economy and creating jobs.”

The regulator, which will be based in South Australia, will take over responsibility for administering accreditation and registration schemes. Ajaka says the Independent Transport Safety Regulator will act on the national regulator’s behalf in NSW.

“The national reforms currently being introduced will also establish a National Rail Safety Investigator to better facilitate the pooling of investigatory resources from all jurisdictions,” he says.

NSW will retain its existing law requiring rail operators to test a minimum of 25 percent of their rail safety workers and report positive results for possible investigation and prosecution.

Operators will continue to be required to conduct post-incident drug and alcohol tests.

“This is important because operators are often on site quicker than the regulator or police, meaning that testing can occur in a timely manner,” Liberal MP Scot MacDonald says.

“NSW will also retain the maximum shift limits and mandatory break periods currently in place for train drivers in NSW.”

Once introduced, single regulators for the road transport, rail and maritime industries will cut the number of transport regulators from 23 to three.

“This is a major safety and productivity reform and shows what can be achieved through cooperation between federal, state and territory governments,” federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says.

He says the NRSR will deliver national consistency and improve safety.

“For over 110 years, our railways have been governed by multiple sets of rules and laws which have created confusing red tape and duplication,” Albanese says.

“From January, you will be able to drive a train from Brisbane to Melbourne and operate under the same safety laws and that’s good for drivers, passengers and the broader public.”

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