Since 1991, the European railway sector has constantly been reformed by the European Union. The 4th Railway Package, which was adopted in 2016 is by far the largest and most complex legal initiative introduced so far. The 4th Railway Package consists of a political and a technical pillar which introduce substantial reforms for all stakeholders concerned.
This Guide illustrates in four different chapters the reforms in the field of vehicle authorisation, safety certification and ERTMS trackside approval as well as the new role of the European Union Agency for Railways as ‘frequently asked questions’. Given the fact that the implementation of the 4th Railway Package is an ongoing process, the Guide will be updated on a regular basis, in line with the progress of the reforms being made on EU level.
Chairman of the Group of Representative Bodies (GRB)
Technical interoperability is at the core of virtually any reform of the EU railway sector. To create the single European railway area with smooth cross-border train operations, the EU decided to impose harmonisation of technical interfaces and subsystems in the form of technical specifications for Interoperability.
The first such Directive was adopted in 1996 with 1996/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system. This was accompanied 5 years later by Directive 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system, both of which were then amended 3 years later by 2004/50/EC. As new amendments were introduced, in 2008 it is deemed appropriate to recast the Directives for the sake of clarity and to merge their provisions together into a single instrument with a view to simplification. This resulted in Directive 2008/57/EC on the interoperability of the rail system within the Community. Further minor amendments to 2008/57/EC were made in 2009 by 2009/131/EC and 2011 by 2011/18/EU.
⇒ With each Directive, the EU extended the scope of interoperability and strengthened the interlinking and technical harmonisation of the national rail networks with the aim of establishing an area without internal frontiers and therefore improved access and competition.
Directive 2016/797 extends the scope of interoperability whilst introducing a new streamlined and harmonised process for vehicle authorisation and for ERTMS trackside approval at EU level. For that purpose, ERA has been given an enhanced role as the European authorising entity and is developing several new tools and processes, such as:
The Directive applies to:
The Directive does NOT apply to (unless Member States do not decide otherwise):
The main changes in 2016/797 are summarised below:
Directive 2016/797 defines the procedure for vehicle authorisation and ERTMS track-side approval:
 Directive 2016/797 stipulates that all applications, whether they are national or international, will have to be submitted and processed via the ERA IT tool. This will then also involve cases which are handled by national actors only (i.e. the NSA and the national applicant) for national vehicle authorisations. This will imply that NSAs review their processes.
Article 55 of (EU) 2018/545 sets out the transitional provisions for the new regime. These are of particularly importance for all pending applications with NSAs and their further processing by the ERA from 16th of June 2019 onwards, in particular the practicalities for transferring applications and the acceptance and processing by ERA of those parts already assessed by the NSAs.
Some Member States have decided to extend the transposition of the directive until 16th June 2020. With regard to the transposition dates in the respective Member State please refer to the table above.
In addition, ERA has to sign a cooperation agreement with each national safety authority (NSA).
The future cooperation between NSAs and the ERA will require cooperation agreements to be signed, audit tools to be approved and NSAs to agree with the usage conditions of ERA’s application tool (OSS), the appeal processes and the fees & charges related to authorisations and approvals.
The ERA Regulation foresees that the Agency will charge for the services provided under the Interoperability Directive. The rules for fees and charges are laid down in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/764.
It is worth noting that the vehicle authorisation procedure already exists in the EU and for which fees & charges are levied by NSAs. However, the approval of ERTMS track-side equipment tenders is a new procedure. Therefore, IMs will have to prepare for a new procedure and costs as regards to ERTMS track-side equipment.
More information: https://www.era.europa.eu/agency/board-appeal_en