4th Railway Package - Technical Pillar


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)


The European Railway Agency (ERA) was set up by means of Regulation (EC) no 881/2004 in April 2004 with the aim to improve interoperability and safety of the European rail network. Its main tasks have been to harmonise, register and monitor TSIs across the entire European rail network and to set common safety targets for the European railways.

At that time, ERA had no decision-making powers. Its only role consisted in supporting the EC with technical assistance in the fields of interoperability and safety.

In 2006, the EC adopted a decision concerning mandates to ERA for developing TSIs under Directive 2001/16/EC and common safety methods and common harmonised requirements for safety certification under Directive 2004/49/EC.

In 2007, the EC adopted a decision concerning a framework mandate to ERA for the performance or certain activities under Directives 96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC.

Regulation (EC) no 1335/2008 assigned new tasks to the Agency in response to the changes made to the Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC and to the Directive on the interoperability of the rail system 2008/57/EC.

In 2010, the EC adopted a decision concerning a mandate to ERA to develop and review TSIs with a view to extending their scope to the whole rail system in the EU.

⇒ With each legal act, the EU extended the scope of safety and strengthened the role of the EU vs the Member States. However, the powers and the status of the ERA remained unchanged.