National Rail Action Plan

The National Rail Action Plan (NRAP) draws together governments and industry to maximise the benefits from the record investment and overcome the legacy of different rail gauges, trains and signalling.

Rail is critical to Australia’s economy, moving passengers and freight across the country and through key ports. With a $155 billion pipeline of rail projects underway, rail will drive productivity and support Australia’s global competitiveness.

Latest news

The Australian and Victorian Governments, as well as the Australasian Railway Association on behalf of rail industry leaders, have come together to sign the historic Memorandum of Cooperation to address longstanding coordination issues between Australia's rail networks. 

The agreement will improve rail’s competitiveness, boost national productivity and improve connections between cities, regions and ports.

The first signatories to the Memorandum of Cooperation include Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, Victorian Deputy Premier, Jacinta Allan, and the chair of the Australasian Railway Association, Danny Broad. 

Further signings between Australian transport ministers and industry builders, operators, and manufacturers are being progressed across the country to maximise the opportunities from the investments to improve rail connections.

Read the media release from Australia's Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King.

About the National Rail Action Plan

The National Rail Action Plan is addressing three critical challenges:

  • skills and labour shortages
  • a lack of national standards for components, causing inefficiencies and hampering local manufacturing
  • systems and processes that don’t work together.

The National Rail Action Plan included 17 foundational actions to define the problems and help identify solutions. This led to a three-year program of rail reform that is now underway.

Read the initial National Rail Action Plan | Read more about completed actions 

Growing skills and labour

Australia needs to grow the rail workforce and make it easier for people to move to where the work is and have their skills recognised. By 2023, workforce gaps of up to 70,000 skilled workers are estimated.

Training in rail skills is mostly bespoke and many qualifications are not recognised across borders. The National Rail Action Plan will  provide clear entry points into rail career paths. And we need more national and portable training to free up people with relevant skills.

National Rail Skills Hub

The NTC is developing a virtual national rail skills hub to bring industry, government, transport and education sectors together to try and double the number of people working in rail. The hub showcases the diversity of jobs and skill sets needed in the rail industry. It's a portal to job portability and it helps people find clear pathways into sustainable careers in rail.

Learn more about why we’re building a National Rail Skills Hub

National standards for components

Trains have a lot of common components but historically there have been few national standards. This has disincentivised investment in local manufacturing and led to inefficiencies such as increased costs. Relying on international supply chains for critical components makes Australia vulnerable to disruption.

Harmonising standards for train parts increases safety and creates a basis for local manufacturing to scale up. Building more components locally reduces costs, creates jobs and strengthens manufacturing self-sufficiency.

Harmonisation plan and economic analysis

The Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board is working through a three-year harmonisation plan. Delivering national standards for train components is reducing the inefficiencies of the past.

To get more evidence on the benefits of greater harmonisation, the NTC has also commissioned an economic analysis.

Learn more about the Harmonisation Plan and economic analysis.

Rail networks that work as one system

The National Rail Action Plan identified a lack of interoperability between Australia's passenger and freight train networks that are interconnected by 29,000km of rail across mainland Australia.

Different rail gauges, rule books, signalling systems, rolling stock and safe working arrangements can make travelling across networks more costly and inefficient. 

Current investments in modern signalling and train control systems have the potential to significantly enhance the safety, capacity and operational efficiency of rail networks, particularly if new and upgraded systems can ‘talk to each other’.

Interoperability framework

The NTC’s National Rail Interoperability Framework aims to better connect a fragmented national rail network into a network that works as one system. Improved interoperability will support national productivity, safety and environmental gains by supporting rail to play a larger role in seamlessly moving more people and goods across Australia.

Learn more about the national rail interoperability framework

Partnerships with industry and government

The National Rail Action Plan has brought people from industry and governments together to achieve reform on a national level. This includes representatives from:

  • industry 
  • the Australasian Railway Association
  • the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board
  • national, state and territory governments.

To support the next stage of reform, we'll engage more widely  with operators, unions and the skills and training sector.

How to participate

If you'd like to express interest in the National Rail Action Plan and program, or ask us a question about our work, we'd like to hear from you.

You can also sign up to get news on our work in the rail space by email.

Email the project team