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Rail safety legislation

Legislation that governs the activities of rail participants in New Zealand are as follows.

The Railways Act 2005

Railways and tramways are required to operate under the Railways Act 2005(external link) (the Act), which promotes the safety of rail operations.

The Act supports a principles based approach to regulatory oversight. This means the Act allows the Transport Agency to provide oversight at a results level (for example, are rail participants maintaining safe operations?) rather than being required to specify prescriptive rules on what they must do and how they must do it.

The Act established that it is the industry that develops, implements, administers and continuously improves its own codes of practice, standards, and safety risk management policies and procedures. The Transport Agency has powers under the Act to ensure the industry maintains compliance with these or to intervene where it believes a specific risk is not acceptably addressed.

Section 7(external link) describes the duty of a rail participant, including that:

A rail participant must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that none of the rail activities for which it is responsible causes, or is likely to cause, the death of, or serious injury to, individuals.

The tools provided in the act to support this approach are described elsewhere on this website, but primarily are:

  • licensing – the Transport Agency decides who can and cannot operate rail vehicles or manage rail networks
  • safety cases – a licence holder must have an approved safety case, describing their safety approach
  • assessments – the Transport Agency can observe and seek evidence on how a participant is managing their safety obligations.

Railways Regulations 2019

Sections 59 and 60 of the Railways Act 2005(external link) (the Act) outlines how the regulations relating to fees and charges are determined for rail transport. The Railways Regulations 2019(external link) (the Regulations) were gazetted on 28 November 2019 and replaced the 2008 version(external link).

Rail safety fees and charges

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link) addresses workplace health and safety. This focuses on the safety and wellbeing of paid employees and self-employed people but has some application to volunteers depending on the type of organisation they are working for and the type of work they are doing. There is also a duty to ensure that no action or inaction of any person at work harms any other person. Refer to WorkSafe(external link) for further information.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission Act 1990

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission Act 1990(external link) established the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC). TAIC is a standing Commission of Inquiry. Its principal purpose is to determine the circumstances and causes of accidents and incidents with a view to avoiding similar occurrences in future. TAIC investigates significant aviation, rail, and marine accidents and incidents.

Rail licence exclusions

An organisation is excluded from the provisions of the Act if all of their rail activities are covered under the licence of another licence holder.

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