The ASSCO Journey
The Australian Society of Section Car Operators was founded in November 1999 after a series of informal meetings, by a group of motor section car owners who were running in South Australia.
At the time, many cars were being run using the insurance and systems of a number of heritage railways, and often under the “work for ride” banner. Changes to the regulatory regime in South Australia allowed for the accreditation of a body as a railway owner and operator, subject to meeting the requirements of Australian Standard AS4292 Railway Safety Management.
An incorporated body, ASSCO, was established to hold the accreditation, and in 2000, work commenced on the preparation of a safety management case for the group. The case considered obligations under the Rail Safety Act, Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act, AS 4801/4804, AS4360, AS4292 and ISO 9000 quality systems.
Interim accreditation was achieved in late 2000. Work to prepare the safety case was done by one of the founding members, with operational experience coming from a former railwayman, whilst a number of the processes used by the North American Rail Car Operators Association were considered and, were necessary, modified to meet Australian Regulatory requirements.
By April 2001, the organisation had in place an access agreement, which meant formal accreditation could be granted. ASSCO was the first not-for-profit (“Heritage”) railway to be granted accreditation as a railway operator without owning or managing its own railway line in South Australia. It was also the first heritage operator to start up under the regulatory regime since it was implemented.
The committee at the time, and subsequently, has avoided taking (long term) responsibility for any infrastructure, because of the work and cost associated with its maintenance. That said, the group has held a lease over the railway between Kevin and Penong on the Far West of Eyre Peninsula.
Originally, operations focused on the railways of South Australia. Although realised early on that other states would be essential to assist the group to grow, work for access in other states did not commence for a few years.