Getting a rail licence

To operate and/or provide access to a railway in New Zealand Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency must first grant you a rail licence, as per the Railways Act 2005(external link) (the Act). This legislation puts the onus on each licence holder to ensure that none of the rail activities for which it is responsible causes, or is likely to cause, the death of or serious injury to an individual (so far as is reasonably practicable).

Find out what 'So far as is reasonable practicable' means in this context

Note: If another licence holder’s licence and safety case cover all your rail activities you may not require a licence under the Act.

  •   What is an access provider?

    An access provider is a person or organisation that controls the use of a railway line by rail operators. This applies to a railway operating on a single rail or set of rails with a gauge of 550 mm or greater, and those with a lesser gauge which are included by regulation.

  •   What is a rail operator?

    A rail operator is the person who provides or operates a rail vehicle as described above, including:

    • a locomotive
    • railcar
    • tram
    • light rail vehicle
    • hi-rail vehicle
    • maintenance vehicle
    • shunting tractor.

    Generally, railways with a lesser gauge that are available for public use are considered to be amusement devices and are excluded from requiring a licence under the Railways Act.

    Note: For details about operating those, refer to Worksafe NZ’s Amusement devices(external link) page.


How do I start the process?

When you first enquire about getting a licence to perform rail activities, a member of the Rail Safety Regulation team will work with you to answer any initial questions you have and provide you with the appropriate guidance material.

They will also guide you to get your Rail safety case to an appropriate standard before you submit the official application, which could include travelling out to view your premises and rail vehicles and talk about your proposed activities.

Rail safety case

Print version: You can also download a print version of these guidelines [PDF, 524 KB]