Urban planning and railway corridors: resolving regulatory dysfunction in Australia

Document Type


Publication details

Ryan, R, Charles, MB & von der Heidt, T 2009, 'Urban planning and railway corridors: resolving regulatory dysfunction in Australia', Competition and Regulation in Network Industries, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 333-353.


In Australia, land adjacent to rail corridors has traditionally been considered blighted owing to the detrimental environmental impacts that rail operations have on their surroundings. However, this adjacent land is now increasingly being used for residential development, which means that there is an increasing number of people living next to rail corridors negatively impacted by rail operations, particularly with respect to noise and vibration. This also means that there is increasing political and regulatory pressure on rail operators and track owners to ameliorate noise impacts. There are a number of issues at play when considering the conflicting relationship between transport corridors and development adjacent to these corridors. These are 1) the willingness of governments to employ adequate planning instruments and Development Application (DA) processes that consider the potentially conflicting interactions between different land uses, 2) the level of sophistication pertaining to noise and vibration reduction technology utilised by rail industry organisations, and 3) the willingness of rail organisations responsible for rail operations and infrastructure to address these conflicts through technological upgrades and negotiate with policymakers. A qualitative research study was undertaken to determine the level of conflict between the regulation of environmental emissions (primarily noise, dust and visible diesel emissions), state-based planning regulations, and DA approvals administered at a local government level.1 As a result, regulatory inefficiency was identified in the context of urban development encroaching on rail corridors and facilities. These inefficiencies are set against a historical background resulting from the Australian federalist system of government, which has led to a disjuncture between the three tiers of government in the administration of environment-specific regulation, particularly where state governments have a high degree of control.