Freight Rail, Industry Infrastructure, Passenger Rail, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand)

Cross border collaboration unlocking innovation in rail and road infrastructure

 An Australian first trial to adopt a system of nationally standardised approvals for products to be used in rail and road projects is underway, which could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually. 

Under the innovative agreement reached between the NSW and Victorian governments, any new product used in rail or road infrastructure projects must meet minimum regulatory, technical and safety standards to obtain type approval. 

Currently there is significant inconsistency in approval processes across Australian jurisdictions that has road and rail construction industry bodies and product suppliers calling for change to complex and time consuming approvals. Australasian Railway Association research suggests inefficient processes cost the rail industry alone up to $40 million per year. 

Transport for NSW and Victoria’s Department of Transport and Planning have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and started trialling a nationally harmonised process for product type approval, covering a range of road and rail infrastructure products, such as signalling and electrical equipment, and civil products. 

Transport for NSW Secretary Josh Murray said he is excited that NSW and Victoria are together working to innovate the rail and road infrastructure industries in a way that will promote technological disruption and cost savings in the tens of millions of dollars.

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,” he said.

“Standardising processes across state jurisdictions could be a gamechanger. 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 first-of-its-kind cross-border partnership is designed to create efficiencies, reduce costs and remove barriers to new technology being introduced that can perform better, benefitting Australia’s rail and road networks. 

Victoria Department of Transport and Planning Secretary Paul Younis said Working with other states to provide greater consistency in standards is a win-win in delivering important road and rail projects with quality and tested components while reducing costs.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Transport for NSW led a diverse and collaborative working group across government agencies, industry partners and peak industry bodies, which has supported the development of a draft national Product Type Approval (PTA) Framework. 

It is expected that the NSW and Victorian trial will be completed by late July 2024, with full acceptance and implementation of the PTA Framework expected by early 2025. 

The Chief Transport Engineers of the two states are also collaborating with 49 members across Australia and New Zealand representing organisations including: 

Carolyn Walsh, Chair of the National Transport Commission celebrated the announcement.

“I warmly welcome development of the Product Type Approval Framework,” she said.

“It will facilitate the delivery of Ministers’ commitment to drive down the cost and barriers to investment in safe, reliable and sustainable rail and road services nationally. 

“This work led by the Chief Transport Engineers in NSW and Victoria is breathing real life into the Memorandum of Cooperation signed by Transport Ministers and rail industry representatives last year to advance the interoperability and harmonisation of rail systems across Australia.”