Flags in front of Berlaymont building

Deadline for the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package expired

The deadline for Member States to transpose the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package has expired last Saturday. This package enables the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) to become Europe’s single certification body for rail vehicles and railway traffic operators. “I count on the Member States which haven’t transposed it yet to do their outmost to fulfil this obligation very soon”, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport Adina Vălean said.

Within its new role, the Agency will take responsibility for vehicle authorisation, safety certification, and European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) trackside approval across all Member States.

Important change

The implementation of the Fourth Railway Package is an important change for the European rail system. In the past, train operators, manufacturers or anyone who planned to operate in or sell to clients in more than one Member State, had to apply for vehicle authorisations and safety certificates separately in every Member State concerned. From 31 October onwards, only one application must be filed through ERA’s One-Stop Shop IT tool (OSS).

The new, simplified procedure aims to reduce costs and administrative burden for the rail industry. The expectation is that it will make the European rail system more transparent, more efficient and therefore more competitive compared to other modes of transport.

ERA has also become the single entry point for the approval of ERTMS trackside infrastructure. ERTMS is the European signalling and train control system. It is gradually replacing different national schemes, to create a seamless European railway system. With the transposition of the Fourth Railway Package on 31 October new harmonised procedures will be applicable across the whole of the European rail network.

Transposition deadline

European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport Adina Vălean said: “Tomorrow marks an important day for the European rail sector – the transposition deadline for the rail safety and interoperability directives. The full implementation of Fourth Railway Package across the whole EU is key to boost rail transport.”

According to Vălean the implementation of its technical pillar is “a big step on our way to decarbonise Europe’s transport sector and to make rail more attractive ahead of 2021 – the European Year of Rail”.

Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Josef Doppelbauer said: “After having started our new role of European authority with initially eight Member States in June 2019, we are crossing the finish line tomorrow. We have already taken more than 1 000 decisions and authorised more than 10 000 vehicles. With the extension of our competence to the whole EU, we reach another milestone on the way to the Single European Railway Area, helping rail to become the transport mode of the 21st century.”

Fourth Railway Package

The Fourth Railway Package is a set of legislative texts designed to complete the single market for rail services (Single European Railway Area). The package was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2016 and consists of two pillars. The so-called market pillar aims at increasing competition, thereby improving cost-effectiveness and quality of rail services.

The new harmonised procedures involving ERA stem from the technical pillar of the Package, which aims at reducing costs and administrative burden for railway undertakings operating across the European Union. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the final transposition deadline was extended, giving Member States until 31 October 2020 to complete their process.

European Year of Rail

As one of the most sustainable and safest modes of transport, rail plays an important role in Europe’s future mobility system and is key for the delivery of the European Green Deal. The European Commission has therefore proposed to declare 2021 the European Year of Rail, to shine a spotlight on rail, its benefits and remaining challenges during the year ahead.

Update: Monday 9.00 hours

Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor-in-chief of RailTech.com, RailFreight.com and SpoorPro.nl, online magazines for railway professionals.

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