National Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation

The National Rail Safety Regulator became operational from 20 January 2013, administering a single national set of rail safety laws for Australia.


In July 2009, as part of the Government's Seamless National Economy agenda, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to national transport regulation reforms including the establishment of a national rail safety law and national rail safety regulator. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was also to expand its role to cover national rail safety investigations. COAG then agreed in December 2009 that South Australia would host the national rail safety regulator, to be operational in January 2013.

The rail reform aims to resolve a century of inconsistent regulatory practices between the states and territories that have constrained rail transport operators across jurisdictional borders. The practical benefits of national rail safety regulation will include single national accreditation for rail transport operators, removing duplication of auditing, monitoring and inspection processes, and the improved availability of resources and specialist knowledge to inform decision making and safety investigations.

A Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) on the rail reform examined the case for national reform and provided significant input to the COAG decision. Following consultation in November 2008, COAG considered the RIS and it was finalised in May 2009.

Download a copy of the Single, National Rail Safety Regulatory and Investigation Framework RIS and appendices:

A subsequent Regulatory Impact Statement conducted by the National Transport Commission on the draft Rail Safety National Law agreed by Ministers in November 2011, found that the economic benefits of the regulatory reform was between $28 and $71 million over the next decade.


In August 2011, COAG signed the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation Reform to establish the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) in South Australia. The IGA also established the ATSB as the national ‘no-blame’ investigator for rail in Australia.

The draft Rail Safety National Law and associated RIS were approved by Transport Ministers at the first meeting of the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) on 4 November 2011. A further RIS on the specifics of rail fatigue risk management was subsequently released for public comment by the National Transport Commission (NTC) in February 2012. It examined whether the National Law should further regulate or place outer limits on the hours of work and rest for all rail safety workers. All these documents can be found at the National Transport Commission website.

The draft Rail Safety National Law was introduced into the South Australian parliament in March 2012 and successfully passed through both houses on 1 May 2012. The Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) 2012 can be found at

Other States and Territories are each to pass enabling legislation to give effect to the Rail Safety National Law within each jurisdiction. Information on the passage of legislation is available on the National Regulator's website.

Work is progressing to establish the necessary information technology systems for the ONRSR to allow seamless national rail regulatory processing.

The ATSB's Transport Safety Investigation Amendment Act 2012 was passed by the Australian Parliament on 13 September 2012 to support the ATSB's expanded role in the conduct of investigations on all metropolitan and freight networks in Australia from January 2013.