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Tougher Rail Safety Bill on the way

Tougher Rail Safety Bill on the way

A rail safety bill that toughens up safety requirements for New Zealand rail operators will be introduced into Parliament early in the new year.

“The Railways Bill implements the recommendations made in the ministerial inquiry into Tranz Rail (the Wilson Report) and aims to improve rail safety,” said Transport Minister Paul Swain.

“The bill responds to recent changes in the rail industry that have created gaps around safety. The current law is based on the assumption that there is only one major rail operator (Tranz Rail), which owned the infrastructure, provided the rail service and did its own maintenance. Developments such as Tranz Rail contracting out its maintenance, selling off its long-distance passenger service to Tranz Scenic and Auckland and Wellington regional councils seeking to take over metro services means that some new industry players do not fall within the licensing regime.

“The Railways Bill improves the way in which rail safety is identified and managed and makes sure the Land Transport Safety Authority has the power to ensure safety improvements are carried out.”

This will be done by:

Extending the licensing regime to cover new participants in the industry; Requiring a rail license holder to prepare a safety plan containing key safety information, which will be approved by the LTSA and published; Requiring a rail license holder to appoint a Safety Manager, who will be responsible for the safety of the operation; Replacing the current audit system with a tougher system involving spot-checks, investigations, inspections etc; Introducing a safety improvement plan to be developed for those operators whose safety record is in need of, or could benefit from, improvement; Introducing court-imposed penalties for non-compliance; Requiring operators to supply additional safety-related information to the LTSA, so it can identify emerging trends and be proactive in regulating safety matters Increase incident and accident reporting requirements.

“Existing operators that are currently licensed will be required to be re-licensed under the new regime, which means they must develop a safety plan for approval,” said Mr Swain. “The Bill requires organisations that manage traffic on the track (currently only Tranz Rail but likely to include other organisations in the future) to become licensed. Licensed rail operators will be held accountable for the safety-related duties of organisations that they contract work out to.

“The Bill will benefit licence holders who have consistently good safety records. They will be tested less often, which will be a cost saving,” said Mr Swain. “This also means that the LTSA will be able to concentrate its resources on those areas of the industry that need a higher level of intervention.

“The Railways Bill is expected to be passed in 2003.

“In the meantime, the LTSA is working closely with Tranz Rail to see that recommendations about operational practice, made earlier this year in the Halliburton report, are being carried out,” said Mr Swain.

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