Our responsibility for ensuring safety on New Zealand's rail networks includes licensing all organisations that operate on and/or provide access to rail networks. If your organisation is considering applying for a licence, this section covers the criteria you need to meet, as well as the fees you'll need to pay.
More than 90 organisations operate on and/or provide access to New Zealand's railways.
There are two main types of licence holders:
Most of New Zealand's rail organisations are both providers and operators. They comprise three broad groups:
Each organisation has its own safety requirements, depending on its size, nature and operational objectives.
A rail licence is a licence to carry out the rail activities set out in a rail organisation's approved safety case. It is granted under the Railways Act 2005 (external link) , which is administered by us.
If you're not sure whether you require a rail licence, or have any other questions, please contact our national office.
If you're planning to apply for a rail licence, we recommend that you read the Rail safety licensing and safety assessment guidelines. They describe the requirements of a safety case, the rail licence, safety assessments and the application form.
Make sure you allow at least six weeks for your licence application to be processed.
An organisation is exempt from requiring a rail licence if it's:
railway is used as an amusement device under section 21A(1) of the Machinery Act 1950 (external link)
railway operates on a set of rails with a gauge less than 550mm between them (unless designated as a railway line under section 59(l) of the Railways Act 2005 (external link) )
railway operates on a railway line excluded by regulations made under the Railways Act 2005, section 59(m) (external link)
railway is a private cable car
railway line is operated by a mining or forestry business and:
To find out whether you're exempt from requiring a rail licence, please contact our national office.
In preparation for gaining a rail licence, each access provider and rail operator in New Zealand is required to develop a 'safety case'. This describes:
The safety case has to be approved by us before an organisation can get a rail licence. The Rail safety licensing and safety assessment guidelines outlines the safety case requirements.
We charge an initial $119.60 (including GST) to process your application for a rail licence.
Once your licence has been issued we charge an annual fee, payable quarterly, which depends on the size and nature of your rail activities.
|Licensee type||Category||Unit cost ($, inc GST)||Unit|
|Access provider||Network||175.52||Per km|
|Passenger operator||Metro||14.51||Per 1000 pass|
|Cable car||1.02||Per 1000 pass|
|Heritage and tourist||1.78||Per 1000 pass|
|Long distance||21.31||Per 1000 pass|
|Freight operator||96.25||Per $1m freight revenue|
|Annual safety fee component||399.92||Each operator|
All rail licence holders are required to be safety assessed regularly – usually once a year – to make sure they are complying with their safety cases. Safety assessment reports document a licensee's performance in adhering to their safety management systems and show us whether a licensee is continuing to conduct their rail activities safely. Licensees are required to respond to the report findings.
Safety assessors, approved by us, conduct the safety assessments. We usually pass on the assessment costs to the licensees.