G4 Project - Environmental regulations pertaining to rail: towards a case for change: project report

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von der Heidt, T, Ryan, R, Charles, M, Zito, R, Collier, C, Hughes, B & Piamsa-Art, R 2008, G4 Project - Environmental regulations pertaining to rail: towards a case for change: project report, for CRC for Rail Innovation.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://www.railcrc.net.au/publications/


The Australian rail industry consists of a complex network of technical operations and owners. Ranged against this background are separate regulatory regimes for safety, access, economic and environmental functions, which are overseen by a mix of State governments and the Commonwealth. Within the rail industry, these regimes are regarded as leading to inefficiencies within the rail sector, while the need to comply with different and sometimes contradictory laws is believed to create unnecessary red tape. The Australian railway industry perceives that the existing environmental regulations that it faces are in thorough need of improvement. It is a commonly held view that there is a need for harmonisation in three areas: (1) the structure of environmental legislation (the framework); (2) the administration or regulatory processes; and (3) the actual prescriptive regulations. An in‐depth review of the literature has indicated that there is little information regarding the nature and extent of inconsistencies in environmental legislation and regulation that impact on Australian railway operations. The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments each have the power to regulate in three major areas of the railway business, viz., structural form, access and safety (accreditation) regulations. Various levels of regulatory reform have been undertaken in each of these areas. Environmental regulation is a fourth area impacting on railway operations, although no investigation of regulatory harmonisation has been undertaken to date. This research enables a better insight into the various ways that the environment is protected in various jurisdictions. The intent, here, is to establish the current methods used to protect the environment, and the degree to which they have been successful. In addition to lessons derived from the literature, findings from interviews undertaken with key industry stakeholders to determine the problems with environmental regulation faced by the industry are included. From these interviews, it is clear that inconsistencies between State environmental regulations have a negative economic impact on the industry, particularly with regard to the State regulation of noise, most notably in New South Wales. Industry participants from the following organisations were interviewed: Pacific National, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), QR, RailCorp, and Rio Tinto Iron Ore. Harmonisation of regulation is ultimately about two issues: (1) administrative efficiency (i.e., reducing paperwork through consistent processes within consistent frameworks), and (2) improving environmental regulations (consistency in practice) as a means to optimise economic benefits.