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 4th RP contains approximately 25 secondary legislative acts, especially in the technical pillar. This means that the Member States and its stakeholders will have to apply primary legislation (i.e. the Directive or Regulation) but also the secondary legislative acts, i.e. delegated and implementing acts. The EC (or rather its legal services) choses which type of act is the most suitable one.
Below a short distinction:

  • Delegated Acts: The power to draft and implement these acts is delegated from the European Parliament and the Council to the Commission. They are developed by the commission to supplement, amend or delete non-essential elements of a legislative act. The European Commission can opt to consult expert groups, but it is not obliged to do so. The EC can choose if it wants to submit the act to the Member States for voting, but it must submit it for adoption to the Council (Member States) and the European Parliament. The latter cannot amend the proposal for a delegated act, they can only adopt or reject it. The most recent example is the Delegated Act on TSIs, which was the first one to be adopted as a ‘delegated regulation’ in September 2017. This means that it applies immediately.
  • Implementing Acts: The responsibility for transposing directives into law usually rests with member states and their interpretation of the requirements. In certain cases when the national legislation must be the same across all member states an implementing act is drafted for member states by the EU for adoption by member states. In contrast to Delegated Acts, the European Commission has to seek input from and voting by the Member States in specific committees. The Council (Member States) and the European Parliament can ‘scrutinise’ the text but with the European Commission to modify the text. The most recent example is the implementing regulation on fees & charges, which is currently being prepared by all stakeholders.

⇒ The secondary acts have been introduced in 2009 to allow the European Commission to become more efficient in its rule-setting. This means that the decision-making process has shortened, and the flexibility of the European Commission has increased in proposing these acts.

⇒ As especially the technical pillar of the 4th RP contains the highest number of these these acts with > 90% of them currently under preparation, the rail sector has every interest to be closely involved with their preparation.