COAG leaves rail out in the cold

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has expressed disappointment at the decision of COAG to delay the establishment of a national rail safety regulator and a national rail safety investigator.

“A unique opportunity to undertake essential micro-economic reform has been deferred just when Australia needs a more efficient regulatory framework that allows rail to flourish, with beneficial environmental impacts for our society.” said Bryan Nye, CEO of the ARA.

“The Commonwealth, States and Territories have demonstrated a lack of vision, failing to push forward with this needed reform. This could have overturned 110 years of federalism that has impeded efficiency and safety across our nation.” continued Mr Nye.
“Single state and territory rail safety regulators and investigators are a relic of a bygone era which should not be continued. The break of gauge is still alive and well!” Mr Nye said.
The ARA notes that the ATC Communiqué of May this year pointed to the establishment of a national rail safety regulator and investigator, but now COAG has watered down the ATC recommendation. How has this happened?
Mr Nye said: “How come regulatory reform is achieved for heavy vehicles with the creation of a single heavy vehicle regulator, yet rail is compelled to bear the continuing inefficiencies of seven different rail safety regulators? Any extension of the role of a Rail Safety Regulators Panel is tantamount to regulatory failure.”
The industry believes that this leaves a continuing disincentive to the use of rail just when Australia needs to encourage this environmentally superior transport mode.
“What we have seen are bureaucratic delaying tactics which are ultimately designed to defer this vital reform as long as possible” said Mr Nye. “The ARA calls on COAG to reconsider its decision and to fast track the review of options for consideration before end 2009 or early in 2010 at the latest. Rail is committed to working closely with governments to achieve this vital initiative urgently, for the good of the nation and the rail industry. This is a very disappointing result for the national economy!”

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