Jurisdiction - Australia
Australia – National Transport Commission Signs MOU To Facilitate Rail Outcomes.

25 September, 2013




  • On 9 August 2013, a memorandum of understanding between the National Transport Commission and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator came into effect to facilitate rail safety and productivity outcomes for Australia.
  • The MOU allows the NTC and the ONRSR to build on the strong links already existing between them for the next three years to ensure development and maintenance of the Rail Safety National Law.



  • Industry participants should note the respective responsibilities of each entity under the MOU in relation to the application of the National Law.
  • Businesses with a component of rail transport should be aware of the role of the ONRSR as regulator in jurisdictions which have implemented the National Law, and of the impending changes in other jurisdictions which are expected to implement the National Law later this year.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which commenced on 9 August 2013. The MOU is designed to help the parties facilitate the best rail safety and productivity outcomes for Australia. A full copy of the MOU can be found here.


Effect of the MOU

The development of the MOU was a recommendation of the 2012 Review of the NTC and other bodies, and is intended to build on the strong links already existing between the NTC and ONRSR to support ongoing working arrangements between the two parties. The MOU is a formal recognition of the relationship between the parties which will further facilitate collaboration on rail safety and productivity.

The NTC intends to, through the MOU, work closely with the ONRSR to ensure that the Rail Safety National Law (National Law) is maintained and developed to meet Australia’s needs.

Under the MOU:


  • the NTC will continue to undertake regulatory policy development in relation to the National Law. This will involve monitoring, evaluating and implementing approved reforms; and


  • the ONRSR’s functions will include monitoring, investigating and enforcing compliance with the National Law. It is also the body that administers the accreditation regime under the National Law.

Key areas covered by the MOU

The MOU covers several aspects of the relationship between the parties, including:

a) the role of each party in administering the National Law;

b) the division of obligations between the parties for the maintenance responsibilities of the National Law and National Regulations;

c) the endorsement and consultation process for setting fees under the National Regulations;

d) the ONRSR’s responsibilities in conducting further reviews for rail reform including consultation with the NTC and stakeholders in relation to proposed recommendations;

e) each party’s monitoring and reporting obligations;

f) confidentiality and information sharing between the parties; and

g) management of the MOU arrangement.

As part of its functions, the ONRSR will be responsible for adjusting the rate payable by Rail Transport Operators under the National Regulations annually, subject to consultation with stakeholders, ministers and publication through Parliamentary Counsel.

The MOU is to remain in place until 2016 (unless terminated earlier), at which point it will be subject to a formal review.

Update on the Rail Safety National Law

The NTC was a key party in the consolidation of existing rail safety legislation, to the new National Law released in July 2011, and approved by the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure in November 2011. Under the legislation, the ONRSR commenced administration of the National Law in January 2013.

Although the National Law has commenced in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory on 20 January 2013, the remaining jurisdictions are yet to implement legislation enacting the National Law.

The National Law will eventually replace the existing state and territory legislation regulating rail safety. However, a transitional period will apply. During the transitional period, existing legislation in each jurisdiction will operate in parallel with the National Law, to ensure rail transport operators can transition to compliance with the National Law.

During this period, the functions of the current regulator will be preserved until full transition to regulation by the ONRSR. To assist in the transition, the ONRSR has published guidelines on how to transition to the National Law, available here.

The remaining jurisdictions, including Queensland, are expected to implement the legislation and commence with the ONRSR in late 2013.

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For further information, please contact:


Shane Bosma, Ashurst
[email protected]

Vince Rogers, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]

Richard Robinson, Ashurst
[email protected]

Lee McDonald, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]

Stephen Nettleton, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]


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