State Rail Authority

The State Rail Authority, a former statutory authority of the Government of New South Wales, was responsible for the operation and maintenance of railways in the Australian state of New South Wales from July 1980 until December 2003.

Statutory Authority overview
Formed1 July 1980
Preceding Statutory Authority
Dissolved31 December 2003
Superseding agency
JurisdictionNew South Wales
Statutory Authority executive
Key document


The State Rail Authority was established pursuant to the Transport Authorities Act 1980 (NSW) that separated the functions of the Public Transport Commission with the State Rail Authority taking responsibility for trains, and the Urban Transit Authority responsibility for buses and ferries.[1] In July 1982 a new colour scheme developed by Phil Belbin of red, yellow, orange and white was unveiled.[2] This was commonly referred to as the candy colours. The L7 logo used by the Public Transport Commission was retained, albeit with the dark and light blue replaced with red and orange. Around this time, they also gave playing cards and soap to passengers. Soap to clean, cards to play.


During its tenure the State Rail Authority completed a number of electrification projects:

Rolling Stock

The State Rail Authority introduced new 80 Class, 81 Class and 86 Class locomotives used on both freight and country passenger services, K set, C set, Tangara, Millennium and V set double deck electric passenger trains and the XPT. It also placed an order for the 82 Class and 90 Class locomotives that were delivered to FreightRail in 1994. A fleet of Denning and Scania coaches was purchased to replace withdrawn country rail services.[8]

Booz Allen Hamilton review and restructure

Following the election of the Greiner State Government in March 1988, consultants Booz Allen Hamilton were commissioned to prepare a report into NSW rail services. In November 1988, before the report was complete, the North Coast Overnight Express to Grafton, the Northern Mail to Moree and Tenterfield, the Bathurst day train, the Western Mail to Dubbo and the Canberra Monaro Express to Cooma all ceased.[9]

After receiving the Booz Allen Hamilton report, the government released its response in July 1989 under the title CountryLink 2000. It was announced the number of staff employed on country rail operations would fall from 18,000 to 10,000, including the withdrawal of staff from 94 country railway stations and the Nyngan – Bourke, Queanbeyan – Cooma and Glen Innes – Wallangarra lines would close.

Several country passenger services ceased over the next few years including the Silver City Comet, Northern Tablelands Express, Canberra XPT, Brisbane Limited, Pacific Coast Motorail, South Coast Daylight Express, Intercapital Daylight and Sydney/Melbourne Express These were replaced either by XPT sets, EMU/DMU sets or coaches. Coach services which had been operated by the State Rail Authority's own fleet were contracted out to private operators. The report had recommended closing all country passenger services as they were judged unviable, however this was not politically acceptable.[10][11]

The State Rail Authority was divided into business units:

  • CityRail: responsible for suburban and interurban passenger services
  • CountryLink: responsible for country passenger services
  • FreightRail: responsible for freight services
  • Rail Estate: responsible for rail property

CityRail adopted a blue and yellow colour scheme including L7 logo, CountryLink a blue, white and grey scheme and FreightRail a blue and yellow scheme.

July 1996 restructure

On 1 July 1996, the State Rail Authority was restructured into four distinct entities by the Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Corporatisation and Restructuring) Act 1996[12][13] to separate infrastructure from operations as required by the Competition Policy Reform Act 1995.[14][15][16] This was part of the process of moving to an open access regime.

The entities were:[13]

  • Freight Rail Corporation: responsible for freight services
  • Rail Access Corporation: responsible for managing track and providing access to public and private operators
  • Railway Services Authority: responsible for track and rolling stock maintenance
  • State Rail Authority: passenger service operator consisting of CityRail and CountryLink

February 1998 restructure

Another restructure in February 1998 saw the State Rail Authority split into four operating divisions:[13][17]

  • CityRail Stations
  • CountryLink
  • Operations
  • Passenger Fleet Maintenance

January 2001 restructure

In January 2001, the Rail Access Corporation and Railway Services Authority were merged into the Rail Infrastructure Corporation that took responsibility for ownership and maintenance of the infrastructure.[18][19]

January 2004 restructure and wind down

In January 2004, after much criticism and public perceptions of blame shifting between units for operational failings, RailCorp was formed taking over the passenger train operations from the residual State Rail Authority (CityRail and CountryLink) and responsibility for maintaining the greater metropolitan network from the Rail Infrastructure Corporation.[20][21]

By June 2006 much of the operational function had been transferred with the State Rail Authority in the process of being wound down.[22]


  1. State Rail Authority of New South Wales (I) NSW Government State Records
  2. "Genesis of the Candy Colours" Railway Digest August 1985
  3. Railway Sign Official Opening Gosford – Wyong Electrification 3 April 1982 Powerhouse Museum Collection
  4. "The Official Opening of Newcastle Rail Electrification" Railway Digest July 1984
  5. "Wollongong Electrification Open at Last" Railway Digest March 1986
  6. "Electric trains reach Richmond" Railway Digest September 1991
  7. "Dapto electrics spark timetable changes" Railway Digest February 1993
  8. "State Rail Coach Services – The Vehicles" Australian Bus Panorama 9/3 October 1993
  9. "End of the Passengers but Not the Politics" Railway Digest December 1989
  10. "CountryLink 2000" Railway Digest August 1989
  11. Moore, M Lagan, B. SRA takes axe to 8000 jobs Sydney Morning Herald 14 July 1989
  12. Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Corporatisation and Restructuring) Act 1996 New South Wales Parliament 1996
  13. State Rail Authority of New South Wales (II) NSW Government State Records
  14. Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 Australian Parliament 20 July 1995
  15. "State Rail Restructure Announced" Railway Digest" May 1996 page 7
  16. Annual Report 30 June 1997 State Rail Authority
  17. Annual Report 30 June 1998 State Rail Authority
  18. Rail Infrastructure Corporation NSW Government State Records
  19. Annual Report 30 June 2001 Rail Infrastructure Corporation
  20. Rail Corporation of New South Wales NSW Government State Records
  21. Annual Report 30 June 2004 RailCorp
  22. Annual Report 30 June 2006 State Rail Authority

See also

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