On 30 June 2015, the European Council confirmed a deal struck with the European Parliament on faster and less burdensome vehicle authorisation and safety certification procedures for European railways. The European Railway Agency (ERA) will play a key role in this. Together, the updated interoperability and safety directives and ERA regulation make up the technical pillar of the fourth railway package.
“Wrapping up a deal on the technical pillar was the Latvian presidency’s first priority in the field of transport – and together with all parties involved we have achieved it. The reform responds to requests from the European rail sector, which plays a substantial role in the EU’s economy and helps make transport more environmentally friendly. The agreement will cut costs and red tape, and will thus help a sector that is presently facing growing international competition. An effective system should also contribute to jobs and growth in Europe,” said Anrijs Matīss, the Latvian Minister for Transport.
The reform will give the European Railway Agency a greater role in safety certification of rail operators and authorisation of railway vehicles. 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 authorisation issued by the Agency or the national authority. This more centralised authorisation and certification system brings Europe closer to a Single European Railway Area. 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 authorisation tasks within three years after the entry into force of the regulation.