ONRSR was created to administer and regulate the safety of the Australian railway industry under the co-regulatory framework established by the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL). Our primary objectives are to encourage safe rail operations, ensure compliance with the RSNL and to promote and improve national rail safety. We provide regulatory oversight of the RSNL throughout Australia.
ONRSR's regulatory approached is explained in The ONRSR Way.
Safety has been at the forefront of rail operations in Australia ever since the nation’s first railway opened in Newcastle in 1831. But some 160 years after that first railway rolled out, the widespread social and economic benefits of a national approach to rail safety in this country were beginning to be discussed in earnest. Indeed by 1993, the Australian Transport Council had endorsed a report titled A National Approach to Rail Safety Regulation.
The report also flagged an intergovernmental agreement to establish nationally-consistent regulation which was subsequently signed in 1996. A decade later, in 2006 the National Transport Commission Act was amended to make provision for nationally consistent rail safety legislation while still providing for state-based rail safety laws. These were overseen by a national panel of state based regulators.
Finally, in June 2009, the Council of Australian Governments voted to establish one Rail Safety National Law overseen by a single National Rail Safety Regulator. By drawing on the history, expertise and experience of the seven state and territory regulators, 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. In January 2013 ONRSR began operations with Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) having been enacted in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and New South Wales. Victoria joined in May 2014, the Australian Capital Territory in November 2014, Western Australia in November 2015 and Queensland in July 2017.
Please refer to the national priorities page for details.
A prospective RTO intending to submit an application is encouraged to contact the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to discuss requirements prior to lodgment of an application. Applicants should also refer to ONRSR’s Schedule of Fees to determine if costs are applicable.
Accreditation under RSNL is required by anyone intending to carry out railway operations unless they are exempted under RSNL.
As stated in RSNL, “The purpose of accreditation of a rail transport operator in respect of railway operations is to attest that the rail transport operator has demonstrated to the Regulator the competence and capacity to manage risks to safety associated with those railway operations.”
Safety regulation of Australia’s rail network is funded by governments and industry. The majority of industry funding is provided via annual fees. Both accredited and registered operators are subject to annual fees, and certain projects also attract Major Project fees. For further information refer to our Accreditation Fees page or Registration Fees page (for registered rail infrastructure managers of private sidings).
ONRSR’s Major Projects Guideline and Fees Policy outline the characteristics of what might or might not be considered a major project. The Fees Policy provides information on when the major project fee might be an applicable and appropriate class of fee. Major projects typically involve significant technical or operational change, e.g. signalling system upgrades, introduction of new classes of rolling stock, significant new railway infrastructure etc. Rail transport operators (RTOs) and industry stakeholders are encouraged to contact ONRSR to discuss the applicability of the Major Project Guideline and whether their project may attract the major project fee.
The ATSB’s role has been enhanced to be the National Rail Safety Investigator and acts independently of ONRSR to conduct ‘no-blame’ investigations. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been developed with the ATSB to coordinate our roles, particularly in regard to occurrence reporting and data collection. ONRSR receives the immediate verbal reports from rail transport operators for Category A and other prescribed incidents and provides certain reports to the ATSB. For more information on immediate reporting requirements, see the Notifiable Occurrences page.
Voluntary and confidential reports should be made through the ATSB Confidential Reporting Scheme (REPCON). The contact details are on the ATSB website.
Each year ONRSR produces its statistical analysis of rail safety in Australia. ONRSR’s Rail Safety Report is an ideal first port of call for anyone looking for rail safety data or statistics.
ONRSR also publishes online national safety data.