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Brussels, 8 September 2009

Commission Report on Railway Safety and Interoperability

The European Commission has today published a report on the implementation of the Community rail safety and interoperability directives which, together with legislation on market access, form the legal framework for a truly integrated European Railway Area. The Commission is globally satisfied with the quality of harmonisation of technical requirements but finds that the speed of implementation of harmonised rules is still slow. This is also due to the long life cycle of some parts of the rail systems, such as infrastructure and rolling stock

Vice-President Antonio Tajani, the commissioner responsible for transport, said: "The European Railway Agency and the National Safety Authorities have only been established a few years ago, but they have already proved to be instrumental in building an integrated European Railway Area. It is my intention to strengthen the role of the agency even further".

The publication of this progress report coincides with the holding of a Railway Safety Conference organised by the European Commission ( IP/09/1283 ). The communication describes the stage reached so far in implementing the Railway Safety Directive and in achieving interoperability of the European rail system since the first report adopted by the Commission in November 2006 1 . This Communication follows a study commissioned by the European Commission analysing the degree of implementation of rail interoperability and safety legislation and progress in the field 2 , and carried out a public consultation. The results of the consultation are summarised in the annex to the report 3 .

The progress in railway safety and interoperability that the Community regulatory framework has made possible has promoted in turn a further development of the internal rail market, helping new businesses to establish themselves, cutting entry costs and, ultimately, promoting the competitiveness of rail vis-à-vis other modes of transport.

As for rail safety, statistics indicate that the railway system in the Community is very safe and the organisational changes introduced under Community law not only had no negative impact on safety but are expected to raise safety levels in the short and medium terms.

From a market perspective, country-specific safety requirements still impose significant entry barriers. These relate mainly to the cost and the duration of the homologation procedures involved at national level, their disparity across Europe and their lack of transparency or predictability. Substantial progress in this field is expected, stemming on one hand from the harmonisation of safety certificates for railway undertakings and the introduction of Common Safety Methods, and on the other from the amended interoperability directive, which will now impose cross-acceptance of national rules when authorising the placing into service of rail vehicles.

Commission implementing legislation on interoperability (the so-called Technical Specifications for Interoperability, or TSIs) is expected to be completed in 2010 as far as the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is concerned. The increasing number of interoperable infrastructures and rolling stock and the limited number of derogations requested by member States indicate that overall the existing TSIs are being successfully implemented.

Progress towards interoperability is a slow process. Because of the long lifetime of rail infrastructure and rolling stock and the need to keep investment costs for the sector at an acceptable level, radical changes towards harmonised solutions are not possible. This is why the Commission intends to concentrate efforts on implementing those technical specifications that will deliver significant benefits in the short and medium term, such as telematics applications in signalling, freight and passenger transport.

For more information

  • Background information on Railway Safety in Europe: MEMO/09/377

  • Press Release on Railway Safety Conference: IP/09/1283

  • Speech by Vice-President delivered at the opening of the Railway Safety Conference: SPEECH/09/367

1 :

Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament: Progress Report on the implementation of the interoperability Directives . COM(2006) 660 final.

2 :

3 :

Commission staff working document accompanying the Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament: Progress Report on the implementation of the Railway Safety Directive and of the Railway interoperability Directives .

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