ARA and RISSB research calls for streamlined rail industry type approvals

Research commissioned by ARA and RISSB has found that ineffective type approval processes are costing the Australian rail industry $230 million per year.

New research commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) has found inefficient type approval (TA) processes are costing the rail industry $230 million per year, and a national approach is needed to streamline the process.

The research

The research by Synergies Economic Consulting reviewed the range of type approval processes used across the country and identified opportunities to improve outcomes. The report found industry and governments can save time and money by adopting a more nationally consistent standardised process.

“This research addresses key actions in the ARA’s Rail Supply Chain Blueprint, which recommended developing a clearer understanding of the impact of current type approval processes,” Caroline Wilkie, Chief Executive Officer for ARA, said. “The findings provide a clear pathway to achieving a national approach to support improved efficiency in the rail industry.”

“If we’re going to encourage innovation in our industry then our approvals processes have to support it; this report points to potentially significant gains in efficiencies and savings,” Damien White, Chief Executive Officer for RISSB, said. “Now’s the time to move away from legacy systems and work practices and embrace a national standardised approach.”

Type approvals

Type approvals confirm a product used in a specific rail network meets the operators’ requirements and is fit for purpose. RISSB developed the standard AS 7702 – Rail Equipment Type Approval in 2014 (and it is currently being updated) to provide a common framework to evaluate TAs for railway products. However, there are still differences in how this approval process is managed by individual rail operators. The current approach makes mutual recognition difficult, regardless of whether something has been approved or is in use by other jurisdictions or organisations.

The research found the current TA process adds complexity for industry, requiring multiple sets of documentation, studies, trials, and evaluations to approve one product across different jurisdictions or rail networks. It recommended a streamlined approach for existing products to allow for a focus on the assessment on products and technologies that make a material change to rail operations. This would support the adoption of innovation while maintaining a strong focus on quality and safety. The findings will help inform RISSB’s current review of Australian Standard 7702 Rail Equipment Type Approval.

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