Standardised approvals framework trialled for rail and road projects

Standardised approvals framework trialled for rail and road projects
Image: Transport for NSW.

The New South Wales and Victorian governments have launched an Australian-first trial to implement a nationally standardised system for approving products used in rail and road projects.

The initiative aims to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually while ensuring all new products used in rail or road infrastructure projects meet minimum regulatory, technical and safety standards for type approval.

Currently, significant inconsistencies in approval processes across Australian jurisdictions have led to complex and time-consuming approvals. These inefficiencies are costly, with the Australasian Railway Association estimating that they cost the rail industry alone up to $40 million per year.

In response, Transport for NSW and Victoria’s Department of Transport and Planning have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to trial a harmonised national process for product type approval. This trial covers a range of road and rail infrastructure products, including signalling and electrical equipment, and civil products.

Transport for NSW has led a diverse and collaborative working group consisting of government agencies, industry partners and peak industry bodies to develop a draft national Product Type Approval (PTA) Framework.

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Josh Murray, secretary at Transport for NSW, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration between NSW and Victoria, highlighting that their joint efforts to innovate the rail and road infrastructure sectors will drive technological advancements and result in cost savings.

“Faster and more smoother approvals will assist us as we engage industry to help the government in NSW procure more locally made products to stimulate domestic manufacturing,” said Murray. “Standardising processes across state jurisdictions could be a game-changer.”

“There are significant implications for thousands of items associated with train control systems, active level crossings, electrical substations, track, bridges, traffic lights, road pavements, drainage and pipes.

“In NSW alone, the existing catalogues of type approved products stretches to 3,000 items listed across 40 different registers.”

The NSW and Victorian trial is expected to conclude by late July 2024, with full acceptance and implementation of the PTA Framework anticipated by early 2025.

The chief transport engineers of both states are collaborating with 49 members from organisations across Australia and New Zealand, including:

  • Australasian Railway Association
  • Australian Rail Track Corporation
  • Austroads
  • Crane Industry Council of Australia
  • Kiwi Rail
  • National Transport Commission
  • National Transport Research Organisation (NTRO)
  • Queensland Rail
  • Rail Industry Safety Standards Board
  • Transport and Main Roads, Queensland
  • Transport Certification Australia (TCA)

Paul Younis, secretary at Victoria’s Department of Transport and Planning, highlighted that collaborating with other states to standardise approval processes ensures the use of high-quality, tested components in road and rail projects, ultimately leading to cost reductions.

“This trial will help test the benefits and effectiveness of this approach and delivers on our joint commitment to the National Rail Action Plan and delivering nationally harmonised outcomes for public transport,” said Younis.

“We are cooperating closely with industry to support jobs and local content and this trial will help manufacturers comply with the relevant standards in NSW and Victoria.”

The first-of-its-kind cross-border partnership aims to create efficiencies, reduce costs and facilitate the introduction of new, high-performing technologies, thereby enhancing the efficiency and performance of Australia’s rail and road networks.

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