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Interoperability of the trans-European rail system
The competitiveness of the railway system, particularly for freight, is today limited by differences between Member States in terms of stock, technology, signalling systems and safety regulations. The new Directive focuses on establishing common standards for signalling and control systems, telematic systems for freight services, the operation and management of rolling stock intended for international freight, and staff qualifications.
Directive 2004/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 amending Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and Directive 2001/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system [See amending acts].
DEFINITION OF INTEROPERABILITY
Interoperability is defined as the capability to operate on any stretch of the rail network without any difference. In other words, the focus is on making the different technical systems on the EU's railways work together.
Today, the competitiveness of the railways is curbed by the differences between Member States in terms of rolling stock, technology, signalling systems, safety regulations, braking systems, traction currents and speed limits. This state of affairs forces international trains crossing several States to stop at "frontiers".
Historically, these technical differences met the need to protect the Member States' own interests or those of their rail industry. At the same time, the road transport industry took advantage of its freedom from technical barriers to reinforce its position on the market.
CURRENT LEGISLATION AND THE NEW PROPOSAL
Three directives are currently in force on interoperability:
- Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system;
- Directive 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system;
- Directive 2004/50/EC amending the two previous directives.
The objective of these three directives is to narrow down the divide so that international trains can provide a better, completely safe service when they change national networks. The complete opening-up of the rail network to international freight services, scheduled for 2008, implies the need to put interoperability into action on the whole network.
The complete opening-up of the rail network to international freight services, scheduled for 2008, implies the need to put interoperability into action on the whole network.
The new Directive 2004/50/EC modernises the existing legislation on high-speed rail and extends the directive on conventional rail to the whole of the European rail system. Nevertheless, it will not imply total, forced technical harmonisation of the railway system. In practice, the interoperability process has several facets:
- application of a homogeneous legal framework for the procedures for verification of application of the essential requirements on safety, health, technical compatibility, reliability, availability and environmental impact;
- application of an identical procedure for placing in service trains intended to operate on the same infrastructure;
- search for the level of technical compatibility that is necessary and adequate to allow operation of heterogeneous rolling stock;
- search for a level of technical harmonisation contributing to gradual establishment of an internal market in equipment and services for the construction, renewal, upgrading and operation of the rail system.
Directive 96/48/EC: interoperability of the high-speed rail system
The first measure on interoperability was taken with the adoption of Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system.
In order to achieve the objectives set, technical specifications for interoperability (TSI) are drawn up by the European Association for Railway Interoperability (AEIF), which acts as the joint representative body bringing together representatives of the infrastructure managers, railway companies and industry.
8. The technical specifications for interoperability (TSI) are technical solutions designed to ensure compliance with the essential requirements for interoperability and to make the railway system operational.
Directive 2001/16/EC: interoperability of the conventional rail system
Directive 2001/16/EC, like the directive on the high-speed system, introduces Community procedures for preparation and adoption of TSI.
This directive requires adoption of a first group of priority TSI within three years, i.e. in 2004, in the following areas:
- control/command and signalling systems;
- telematics applications for freight services;
- traffic operation and management, including staff qualifications for cross-border services;
- freight wagons;
- noise problems deriving from rolling stock and infrastructure.
The aim of this Directive is to establish the conditions to be met to achieve the interoperability within Community territory of the trans-European high-speed rail system as described in Annex I. These conditions concern the design, construction, placing in service, upgrading, renewal, operation and maintenance of the parts of this system placed in service when the Directive enters into force, as well as the qualifications and health and safety conditions of the staff who contribute to its operation.
At the same time, the Directive provides that trains should be equipped with a recording device. The data collected by this device and the processing of the information must be harmonised.
The biggest limitation of modes of transport such as rail is that they cannot provide door-to-door goods services. Time is wasted and competitiveness lost because the systems and networks are not harmonised.
In this context, the White Paper on European transport policy considers interoperability a key component in revitalising the railways and, consequently, shifting the balance between modes. The ultimate objective is to reduce congestion on the EU's roads and to build a legally and technically integrated European railway area.
This package of legislation will make it possible to form major long-distance European freight corridors. One example is the agreement between the French and German railways (SNCF and Deutsche Bahn) to pool a fleet of locomotives despite the technical differences along this cross-border route.
Today's technical and regulatory barriers work in favour of the existing companies and are still slowing down the entry of new operators and completion of a more competitive market.
Establishment of an open market free of technical barriers will guarantee higher quality and greater demand and allow the railways to go ahead with new investments.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Directive 2004/50/EC [adoption: codecision COD/2002/0023]||30.04.2004||30.04.2006||OJ L 164 of 30.04.2004|
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Directive 96/48/EC||08.10.1996||-||OJ L 110 of 20.04.2001|
|Directive 2001/16/EC||20.04.2001||20.04.2003||OJ L 235 of 17.09.1996|