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Brussels, 8 September 2009

Commission to promote rail safety rules and monitor their implementation

The European Commission will review rail safety rules and practices as well as the quality of their implementation and will consider all opportunities for improvement, where necessary, it was announced at today's conference on "Railway safety: the way forward" in Brussels. Joining European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani at today's conference are the Italian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Altero Matteoli; Brian Simpson, Chairman of the Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament. The conference was convened in the aftermath of the accident which had occurred in Viareggio, Italy, on 29 June, when a freight train derailed and a wagon exploded, leaving a high number of victims .

Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for transport said: "Although the overall level of railway safety in the European Union is high, the tragedy in Viareggio reminds us that we can never afford to be complacent about safety." I am personally convinced that we could further improve our safety levels by introducing two important elements. Firstly we should move towards a system that also includes distance-based controls for train wagons. Secondly we need to strengthen the powers of the European Railway Agency by allowing it for instance to take part in national investigations of accidents".

Current practice shares the use of the same railway infrastructure for both freight and passenger services, for both practical and economic reasons. Mixed traffic needs to be managed in the safest possible way, and infrastructure and rolling stock must be properly maintained.

The Commission has been working to maintain and improve railway safety standards through the development and implementation of safety regulations and technical requirements. In the wake of the Viareggio tragedy, the Commission however believes it is appropriate to review existing rail safety rules and practices, as well as the quality of their implementation, and to consider opportunities for improvement. The Commission today also published a Progress Report on the Implementation of the Railway Safety Directive and of the Railway Interoperability Directives (See IP/09/1282 ).

The conference brings together representatives of Member States governments, National Safety Authorities, National Investigation Bodies, the railway industry, the European Railway Agency and the Commission.

The programme of the conference has been structured in such a way as to touch all aspects of railway safety, along four major themes:

  • Safety at the level of infrastructures and operations

  • Safety at the level of vehicles

  • Safety at the level of goods transported

  • Supervision and investigation.

For more information

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

  • Press Release on the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Railway Safety Directive and of the Railway Interoperability Directives: IP/09/1282

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

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