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New rail responsibilities for ATSB

By Martin Dolan, Chief CommissionerMartin Dolan

2013 marks a very important milestone for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and brings a new and exciting set of challenges as we work to improve transport safety for all Australians.


On 20 January the ATSB became Australia’s independent national rail safety investigator and will have responsibility for investigating safety events on all metropolitan, passenger and freight networks across Australia.

In Victoria and New South Wales we will work in collaboration with the existing state bodies, the Office of the State Transport Investigator (NSW) and the Office of the Chief Investigator (Vic). In South Australia and Tasmania our role will expand to include metropolitan and non-interstate networks while in Queensland and Western Australia we will continue to focus on the interstate network until those states decide to participate in the national regulator scheme.


We can make a valuable contribution to preventing future accidents by conducting thorough investigations and sharing the results.


While we will be independent from the new National Rail Safety Regulator and the rail industry, we will work closely with all parties to identify risk and ensure that action is taken to prevent accidents. Under this new national approach we should be in a position to investigate a greater range of safety matters and be better placed to share our safety findings across the rail industry Australia-wide.

We have built up significant expertise in the last ten years of rail investigations and we have consulted extensively with our state counterparts and the rail industry in preparation for our expanded role. I am confident that we can make a valuable contribution to preventing future accidents by conducting thorough investigations and sharing the results.

Our aim is always to improve safety, not allocate blame.

We expect this will increase our workload to about 50 rail investigations per year comprising 15 to 20 to be carried out under our agreements with the state agencies in New South Wales and Victoria, 15 by the ATSB on the interstate network and 10 to 20 on the intrastate tracks. We currently average about 10 per year.

We have recruited new rail investigators to take on this task but the extra workload will affect all of us at the ATSB. We expect a higher volume of notification calls from the industry and the public on rail matters. From 20 January we will take all phone calls for notification of Category A rail matters. We will also be expanding our confidential reporting scheme, REPCON to include rail. Our research, statistical collection, analysis and communications roles will all need to extend to our new responsibilities.  

We are all ready for the challenge.

Written by Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner at 3:49 PM
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