SBB and SNCF Trains at Zurich Train Station.

ERA to Lead Rail Interoperability and Safety

The European Council confirmed a deal on faster and less burdensome vehicle authorization and safety certification procedures for European railways on 30 June 2015.

The reform will give the European Railway Agency (ERA) a greater role in safety certification of rail operators and authorization of railway vehicles. Until now, when a rolling stock manufacturer wanted to place a new vehicle on the market in several EU countries, it had to lodge separate applications with the authorities of each of these countries. The situation has been the same for rail operators that want to provide services in various member states, as they need a certificate to prove that their safety management system is in order and that they are able to operate safely.

The new rules will eliminate the need for multiple applications. The ERA will issue all authorisations for vehicles intended for cross-border operations and all safety certificates to railway companies running cross-border services. National safety authorities will still have an important role in carrying out the necessary assessments.

For vehicles and operators involved in national transport only, the applicant will be able to choose whether its application will be processed and the authorization issued by the Agency or the national authority.

The ERA will also have a greater role in the development of the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS). It will assess the technical solutions envisaged before any call for tenders relating to ERTMS track-side equipment is issued, to ensure that the projects developed are interoperable.

The ERA will take on its certification and authorization tasks within three years after the entry into force of the regulation. Member states will have one additional year to continue with the current system if they consider it necessary. In that case, they will have to inform the Agency and the Commission of their decision and provide a justification.

To make the procedures easy and transparent, the ERA will set up an information and communication system which will act as a single entry point for all applications. In cases where the area of operation is limited to one member state, the applicant will use the system to select the authority it wants to process the application.

This more centralised authorisation and certification system brings Europe closer to a Single European Railway Area. It is expected to increase economies of scale for railway undertakings and manufacturers across the EU. It will cut administrative costs and speed up procedures, while maintaining the current high level of safety. At the same time it will help avoid any covert discrimination, in particular against new companies wishing to enter a railway market.

Photo: Onur Uysal

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