With the creation of the ATSB in July 1999, followed by the enactment of the Transport Safety Investigation Act (TSI Act) in 2003, Australia had for the first time a national body with a mandate for professional and independent rail safety investigations.

In its relatively short existence, the ATSB's rail safety unit has had a significant influence on rail safety in Australia. In particular, it has been instrumental in fostering an approach that emphasises the importance of system safety, rather than just focusing on the mistakes of operational personnel.

Other notable achievements of the ATSB in rail investigations have included raising awareness within the rail industry of the importance of modern health and safety standards for operational personnel, and highlighting specific accident types. These include accidents due to poor communications, signalling difficulties, derailments such as through dynamic track and rolling stock interactions, fatigue, and level crossing collisions.

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