Network Access Standards

We provide access to New Zealand’s rail network for Rail Participants who hold a track access agreement with KiwiRail and a rail license issued by Waka Kotahi, the NZ Transport Agency.

Rail Participants and Contractors operating and working on the National Rail System (NRS) are subject to the Railways Act 2005 and must either:

  • Hold a track access agreement and rail license covering the scope of the intended activities, or
  • Be approved by a Rail Participant holding a track access agreement and a current rail license to work under the scope of those documents.

Additionally, all parties operating on the NRS must comply with the relevant standards. To date, the provisions have been contained within the National Rail System Standards (NRSS). The NRSS are progressively being replaced by Access Provider Interoperability Standards (APIS).

These standards provide a framework for the management of safety and change within a Rail Participants safety system. They also meet legislative requirements and Waka Kotahi’s Rail Safety Licensing and Audit Guidelines.

What the standards cover:

NRS standards apply to all activities involving the operation of rail vehicles on the National Rail System, including:

  • Definitions (language and terminology)
  • Safety Management
  • Health assessment of Rail Safety Workers
  • Risk Assessment
  • Occurrence Management
  • Mechanical Engineering Interoperability
  • Rail Operations Interoperability
  • Audit
  • Document Control
  • Crisis Management
  • Heritage Vehicle and Train Management


The NRS Standards have been transferred to KiwiRail as Access Provider to manage their transition to APIS, other documents, or cancellation in favour of other approaches.

In its role as Access Provider KiwiRail intends to create and maintain an APIS suite which is available throughout the industry. This is separate to its own internal standards.

As each NRS Standard is considered KiwiRail as Access Provider will continue to consult with industry stakeholders before any action is taken.

If you require further information on prospective changes, please contact the  Head of Systems Standards and Governance - Group Zero Harm through 0800 801 070

The latest version of the National Rail System Standards is detailed below.

National Rail System Standards

NRSS 1 - Definitions (Issue 3, Effective Date 20-11-2011)

Clear communication and language are critical to ensure the safety of operations. NRSS 1 provides the common language and terminology used in New Zealand’s rail industry and throughout the National Rail System Standard. 

NRSS 2 - Safety Management (Issue 3, Effective Date 20-11-2011)

A common safety framework, standards, practices and procedures are core elements of a rail safety management system. NRSS 2 provides guidance for Rail Participants to achieve these aims. And sets the minimum requirements for Rail Participants on New Zealand's rail network.

NTC National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers 2017

The NTC Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers provides a framework for rail operators to manage the risks to safety posed by ill health of rail safety workers on the National Rail System. It outlines procedures for conducting health assessments and the medical criteria for judging fitness for rail safety work. It also provides practical guidance to assist in the risk assessment of rail safety work tasks and determine the appropriate risk category for rail safety workers.

NRSS 4 - Risk Management (Issue 2, Effective Date 11-06-2007)

NRSS 4 sets the minimum NRS requirements for risk management. It contains information on risk management in terms of occupational, operational and engineering, responsibilities, documentation and associated change.

User Note: NRSS/4 is currently being reviewed. Rail Participants are advised to seek current guidance on best practice risk management from IS0 31000:2009.

NRSS 5 - Occurrence Management (Issue 4, 26-04-2012)

NRSS 5 contains primary procedures and responsibilities for reporting and managing rail incidents and accidents, also known as occurrences.

NRSS 6 - Engineering Interoperability Standards (Issue 4, Effective Date 19-04-2013)

NRSS 6 outlines the minimum requirements for rail vehicle interoperability on the NRS. Operators must provide evidence of NRSS/6 compliance to KiwiRail before running rights can be granted.

User note: NRSS/6 is not intended to be a detailed design specification or design standard. Detailed vehicle specifications beyond NRSS/6 requirements (e.g. crashworthyness and fire suppression),  and the assessment of compliance processes to contemporary vehicle design standards are agreed between Operators of rail vehicles and the NZ Transport Agency during the regulatory processes for Preliminary Type Approval and Type Approval.

NRSS 7 - Rail Operations Interoperability (Issue 2, Effective Date 11-06-2007)

NRSS 7 contains high level requirements for the safe operation of rail vehicles by operators and other parties with other rail users. Heritage operators should also see NRSS/11.

NRSS 8 - Document Control (Issue 4.1, Effective Date 27-03-2017)

NRSS 8 establishes controls to ensure clear, accurate and relevant information is provided in a timely manner. It contains requirements for controlled documentation for the national safety standards.

NRSS 9 - Audit (Issue 3, Effective Date 20-11-2011)

NRSS 9 creates a generic guide to policy requirements for access providers and operators. It contains definitions and methodology for management system auditing as defined within the rail safety system.

NRSS 10 - Crisis Management Procedures (Issue 4, Effective Date 04-04-2012)

NRSS 10 sets the requirements for the rail industry to collaborate during a crisis and provides the minimum requirements for a Rail Participants Crisis Management Plan.

APIS 11 - Heritage Vehicle and Train Management (Issue 2, Effective Date 19-07-2022) 

APIS 11 contains standards for the registration and operation of heritage vehicles, expectations and requirements for heritage operators using the national rail system.

Use note: NZ Transport Agency Preliminary Type Approval and Type Approval is also required for all new or ex KiwiRail (and predecessor organisations) rail vehicles that a heritage operator intends to run on the NRS.


Amendments to NRSS Standards

Bulletin 0582 Towing of non registered rail vehicles on the National Rail System

Bulletin 0522 NRSS Amendments