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.
Prof Andy Doherty
Chairman of the Group of Representative Bodies (GRB)
1.This Directive establishes the conditions to be met to achieve interoperability within the Union rail system in a manner compatible with Directive (EU) 2016/798 in order to define an optimal level of technical harmonisation, to make it possible to facilitate, improve and develop rail transport services within the Union and with third countries and to contribute to the completion of the single European railway area and the progressive achievement of the internal market. Those conditions concern the design, construction, placing on the market, placing in service, upgrading, renewal, operation and maintenance of the parts of that system as well as the professional qualifications of, and health and safety conditions applying to, the staff who contribute to its operation and maintenance.
2.This Directive lays down the provisions relating to, for each subsystem, the interoperability constituents, the interfaces and procedures, and
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: Technical Specifications for Interoperability.
The first such Directive was adopted in 1996 with 1996/48/EC, which was amended 5 years later by 2001/16/EC, and again 3 years later by 2004/50/EC. These were amended 4 years later by recast directive 2008/57/EC, which received further amendments 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 role of the EU vs the Member States. However, the powers and the status of the ERA remained unchanged.
Directive 2016/797 extends the scope of interoperability whilst introducing a new process for European vehicle authorisation and for ERTMS trackside approval. For that purpose, ERA has been given an enhanced role 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.
Vehicle authorisations are amongst the lengthiest and costly processes in the railway sector with up to 2 years or more duration. With the new EU vehicle authorisation procedure to start on 16th of June 2019, the ERA proposes a 1-year shadow-running phase, starting on 16th of June 2018.
Furthermore, the practical details of the transition are still being discussed. These are of particularly importance for all pending applications with NSAs and their further processing by the ERA from 16th of June 2019 onwards. The ERA and the NSAs are currently discussing the practicalities for transferring applications and the acceptance and processing by ERA of those parts already assessed by the NSAs.
With regard to the transposition, Member States may consider extending the transposition of the directive by up to 1 year, by 16th June 2020.
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 the 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 Interoperability Directive foresees that the ERA will charge for its services. These so-called “fees and charges” are currently under discussion between the EC DG MOVE, EC DG Budget, the ERA as well as the Member States (NSAs). It is worth noting that the ERA intends to become partially self-funding.
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. So far 5 IMs have agreed to participate in so-called ‘learning cases’ launched by ERA in order to better define ERTMS track-side approval processes and thereby limiting their costs. However, the outcome of these cases will be too late for the intended legislative act on ERTMS track-side component approval which is to be adopted by May 2018.
The ERA Appeal Body can overrule the opinion of a NSA, and thus overrule national interests;
The Executive Director of the ERA can overrule the Appeal Body;
Disclaimer: The final text will be adopted early 2018.
There are several open issues: