Section 37 of the Railways Act 2005 outlines how we carry out ordinary and special safety assessments to be certain that licence holders are operating in compliance with the Act, their approved safety case and their underlying safety system.

Section 37 of the Railways Act 2005(external link)

Special safety assessments happen when there are reasonable grounds to believe a rail participant’s activities could cause the death of, or serious injury to, individuals, or significant damage to property.

Rail Regulatory Risk Framework

The Rail Risk Regulatory Framework (R3F) provides a framework for improving safety, efficiency and performance in the rail industry.

R3F shifts our regulatory approach from one-size-fits-all to risk-focused and enables us to apply our resources in the most efficient and effective way to achieve the safety behaviours we want to see in the parties we regulate. Initially R3F is being used for safety assessments. In future, it’ll be used for other rail regulatory activities as well.

Safety assessments provide a robust risk assessment to assist us to identify key focus areas and to provide transparency and consistency of regulatory decision making.

Waka Kotahi uses an R3F scorecard that calculates which risk group licence holders being assessed belong to for the activity they’re carrying out. Depending on the type of licence holder, different factors are considered.

The initial focus will be on the two participant types that are required to hold a rail licence – access provider and rail operator. If you're both an access provider and a rail operator, we'll assess you for both roles.

An assessment of your safety management system is carried out by our assessors. Questions are divided into four  groups – governance and leadership, operational management, safety risk management and safety assurance. Your score is determined by which risk group you fall into, and the assessment will determine if you're meeting, exceeding or falling below your obligations. 

The required response can then be determined, alongside the frequency and focus of your subsequent assessments.

R3F will ensure fair and equal treatment for all licence holders. It will provide: 

  • an explanation of how decisions have been made
  • guidance on areas for focus
  • support for safety performance improvement.

Watch the R3F framework information webinar, hosted by the Rail Safety Regulator, July 2023.