Our role in rail safety

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has primary regulatory responsibility for rail safety in New Zealand. Our role is to provide independent assurance to stakeholders and the public of the effective  management of rail safety risks by rail participants.

The work we do can be broken into the following categories:

Engaging and setting expectations

  • Working with rail and road stakeholders to achieve a safer rail system for passengers, workers and the community.
  • Engaging with and educating rail participants on their regulatory duties.
  • Guiding the adoption of standards.
  • Setting rules for infrastructure, vehicles and practices.


  • Managing entry and compliance with requirements for those required to hold a rail licence (and exit where necessary).
  • Setting conditions on licence holders to manage certain safety risks.
  • Approving and driving the continuous improvement of the ‘Safety Cases’ required by licence holders.


  • Using intelligence to identify and target critical safety risks to the system.
  • Assessing performance and investigating accidents to identify non-compliance, unsafe practices and competency gaps.
  • Providing public data and reporting on the activities and safety of the rail system


  • Intervening directly with compliance tools to improve performance or control significant risks.
  • Detaining or restricting or prohibiting the use of vehicles or infrastructure to control significant risks.
  • Prosecuting breaches of the Railways Act.
  • Supporting inquiries by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) and Coroner and ensuring recommendations from these are implemented.

Revenue collection

  • Collecting fees and charges from participants for holding a licence or receiving regulatory services.

Guidance and information on the rail safety regulatory operating model, risk management approach, rail safety monitoring and compliance tools are available below.