National rail safety investigation reforms

As part of the National Safety Investigation Reforms project, on 20 January 2013 the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) became the national, no-blame safety investigator for rail in participating States.

The ATSB has expanded its activities in accordance with the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act), with investigations now extending to intrastate corporate operations. The national rail safety system will provide a safety regulation and investigation framework equalling international best practice.

A number of key changes were implemented through the investigation reforms, including:

  • changes to investigation legislation, passed by the Commonwealth Parliament on 13 September 2012
  • agreement by governments to a cooperative funding mechanism
  • arrangements to work collaboratively with existing state-based investigators in New South Wales and Victoria
  • the introduction of a voluntary, confidential reporting scheme for safety concerns beyond those which operators are required to report
  • changes to mandatory reporting regulations for rail transport operators in participating states and territories.

In maritime, governments have agreed the ATSB should look into making similar arrangements to work collaboratively with the existing state-based investigators in New South Wales and Victoria, as it has in rail.

Updates on the ATSB's progress will be posted on this page as they become available.

The following table summarises reporting requirements for each state and territory.




Voluntary and
confidential reporting

South Australia


Report Cat. A
to the
1800 011 034.

The ATSB investigates throughout
South Australia.


A nationwide voluntary and
confidential reporting scheme
is available to all
states and territories.


Report all
safety concerns

1800 020 505.


The ATSB investigates throughout

New South Wales

The ATSB and the
Office of Transport Safety Investigations
continue investigating throughout
New South Wales.

Northern Territory

The ATSB continues investigating throughout
Northern Territory.


The ATSB and the
Chief Investigator Transport Safety
continue investigating throughout

Western Australia

The ATSB investigates throughout
Western Australia.


The ATSB investigates throughout


Background – rail

Historically, the safety of Australia's rail system was managed by different regulators and operators under different laws in different states. There was only a restricted capacity for independent, no blame safety investigation. An integrated national transport safety framework ensures a consistent, efficient and coordinated approach to rail safety in Australia and, for the first time, the national operation of a single law for rail safety investigations.

Along with a national regulator for rail operators, a national investigator is a key component of an integrated transport safety system. While a regulator concentrates on assuring safety compliance and an operator manages safety risk, a national investigator reviews the overall safety system for deficiencies and recommends improvements.

In December 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to establish a national rail safety regulator to modernise Australia's rail safety regulation system and administer a single national Act encompassing all aspects of rail safety. COAG further agreed to extend the ATSB's role to operate as an enhanced national rail safety investigator covering corporate rail operators and those engaged in interstate operations.

In August 2011, COAG agreed to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation Reform, which formalises the agreement between the Australian Government and State and Territory governments to establish a National Rail Safety Regulator, and expand the ATSB's role to cover rail safety investigations nationally from 20 January 2013.

As of midnight, 30 June 2017, the ATSB became the single national rail safety investigator for all States and Territories in Australia.

The ATSB’s rails safety investigation role occurs concurrently with the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator overseeing rail safety regulation in every Australian state and territory.

Background – maritime

At its 19 August 2011 meeting, COAG agreed to an IGA establishing the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) as the national maritime safety regulator. On 1 July 2013, AMSA became responsible for administering national safety legislation applying to Australia's domestic commercial vessel fleet.

To further enhance Australia's maritime safety regime, governments have considered a related proposal to establish the ATSB as the national no-blame maritime safety investigator. At present, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria undertake independent maritime safety investigations. The benefits of a national maritime safety investigator would include:

  • a comprehensive national maritime safety system, comprising a national regulator and independent investigator, each operating under its respective national law. This would replicate the high-level arrangements agreed by COAG for rail
  • a consistent national approach to the selection and conduct of maritime safety investigations
  • enhanced investigative capacity, including the investigation of serious maritime safety matters which are currently not independently investigated
  • the pooling of scarce investigatory resources and the direction of these resources to national priorities, to allow more effective and efficient national coverage.

The Australian Transport Council recognised the value of no-blame safety investigations at its May 2011 meeting. It agreed that no-blame safety investigations are an integral part of an effective national maritime safety system, and to the ATSB's collaborative management of no-blame maritime safety investigatory resources nationally under the TSI Act.



Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator

National Maritime Safety Regulator

Category A reporting to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau

TSI Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament: A new era for rail safety investigation


Last update 26 November 2018