The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts and the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads are leading a process to reform the Transport Standards to ensure they remain efficient and effective, are fit for purpose and meet the current needs of Australian society. The reform process is split into two stages.
Stage 1 identified 16 areas of reform, as well as amendments to references of the Australian Standards, based on consultation with the disability community, governments and the public transport industry. Infrastructure and Transport Ministers confirmed the first tranche of 16 reform options on 11 February 2022.
For more information, see the Stage 1 Reform page.
Stage 2 identified a further 60 areas of reform, based on consultation with the disability community, governments and the public transport industry.
Consultation on Stage 2 reforms of the Transport Standards was open from 15 March 2022 to 9 August 2022). Feedback from the consultation process will support evidence-based analysis and recommendations on the reforms for consideration by Transport Ministers in mid‑2023.
For more information, see the Stage 2 Reform page.
The 2012 review of the Transport Standards found they may not be meeting the current and future needs of people with disability or provide sufficient flexibility or guidance to providers and operators in their efforts to fulfil their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
At the former Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting on 2 August 2019, Ministers endorsed a forward work program for reforms to the Transport Standards.
Guiding principles for the reform
For the first time since the Transport Standards were developed in 2002, Ministers endorsed principles to guide the reform process. This will ensure all jurisdictions and the Australian Government are working together to achieve common goals as the legislation is updated. The principles place people with disability front and centre of the new reform process, recognising that access to public transport is a right for people with disability and is not just about being compliant with standards but about providing an ongoing service for people with disability.
The four guiding principles for the reforms are:
1. People with disability have a right to access public transport
The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport pursue the removal of discrimination against people with disability first and foremost. The reform process pursued must place people with disability at the centre of their consideration.
2. Accessibility is a service, not an exercise in compliance
An accessible public transport network anticipates and responds to the varying needs of its customers with disability. This requires thinking beyond compliance with minimum standards and toward a focus on accessibility as a service. The reform process should be open to engaging with opportunities to develop best practice, rather than minimum prescriptive standards.
3. Solutions should meet the service needs of all stakeholders and be developed through co design
The new approach should learn from the past modernisation process which primarily focussed on the current individual standards and how they can be amended. This limited the range of solutions to those that fit within the existing framework. The new approach should be open to considering performance-based standards and/or functional outcomes; jurisdictional and modal specific standards; prescriptive standards; or other innovative solutions.
4. Reforms should strive for certainty
Certainty, both legal and in relation to service provision, is important for all stakeholders. However, transport operators and providers who take only a minimum standard interpretation of the Transport Standards in fact face greater risk of failing to meet the objectives of accessible public transport. This is because minimum standards do not always achieve the best functional outcomes for people with disability and can result in an unintended discriminatory outcome.
Governance arrangements for the reform
The National Accessible Transport Steering Committee (Steering Committee) oversees the reform at high level and ensures a national perspective is provided to the work. This acknowledges that the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and its accompanying disability standards, as maintained by the Australian Government, are the primary legal force for the elimination of disability discrimination.
The Steering Committee is comprised of senior officials from the Attorney General's Department, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia governments and is chaired by the Department. The Steering Committee reports to the Infrastructure and Transport Senior Officials’ Committee and provides oversight and direction to the National Accessible Transport Taskforce (the Taskforce).
The Taskforce, chaired by Queensland, is comprised of representatives from the disability community, the public transport industry, technical subject matter experts and governments. This recognises that state, territory and local governments have expertise and close relationships with people with disability and industry.