Authorisation of railway vehicles
The new European Commission Implementing Regulation for the Authorisation of Railway Vehicles
In April 2018, the European Commission officially published the new European Implementing Regulation for the authorisation of railway vehicles. This document is an important milestone and building block within the so-called Technical Pillar of the 4th Railway Package, and it had been demanded for years by the European railway sector. However, now that it is published and in force, it is unclear whether all the Member States of the European Union will actually implement the new regulation in June 2019.
The 4th Railway Package
In April 2017, Josef Doppelbauer (Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Railway, referred to here as “the Agency”) said "The 4th Railway Package is the single most significant change in railway legislation!" Historically, the railway system has been developed on an individual basis within the different European national states. As a result, railway transport in the EU is organised in a rather monopolistic and protectionist way. This history makes it difficult for the European railway sector to provide and establish easy and unrestricted cross-border traffic between the Member States. To overcome this historical obstacle, the 4th Railway Package was launched with the intention of offering a new approach, one that would deliver a solution, relief, and progress for the European railway sector. Various changes and amendments were made to existing procedures and principles, the single purpose being to eliminate the national administrative and technical barriers between the different Member States, significantly reducing the cost of railways so as to increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of the railway sector.
In May 2016, the Technical Pillar of the 4th Railway Package was started by the publication of a new Interoperability Directive (EU 2016/797) and individual mandates for the Agency to draft so-called Implementing Regulations. These implementing regulations, which are subordinate to EU directives, were to directly apply to EU member states and thus ensure the harmonisation of procedures and principles at national level throughout Europe. Now, one of these new regulations will regulate the authorisation of railway vehicles throughout the EU in detail.
The new EU Railway Vehicle Authorisation Regulation
The new EU Regulation for the authorisation of railway vehicles introduces considerably more responsibility for the manufacturers of rolling stock than in the past. Systematically, this concept fits very well into the so-called European New Approach on regulatory harmonisation. In the future, the brunt of the work will lie with the applicants, who will have to prepare, organise and guarantee the execution of the authorisation procedure on their own until the complete application is submitted to the authorising entity. However, from a German point of view, the new regulation represents a backward step in terms of railway vehicle authorisation. The legally defined administrative processing times are longer than the current German ones, and nationally proven and established best practices – such as series approval or requirement freezes – have not been fully adopted by the European legislators.
From June 2019 onwards, the Agency will be at the heart of the new EU-wide harmonised authorisation process and take over the required work and assessments from the national authorities. New concepts such as European multi-country authorisation or the Internet-based process tool OSS (One-Stop Shop) have the purpose and the potential to make the authorisation process easier, faster, and cheaper. However, there are concerns in the European railway industry – in addition to a certain spirit of optimism – about unclear requirements, unproven processes, a lack of planning security, longer procedures, and thus ultimately higher costs. This is because the new regulation has not really replaced any existing process steps. In this respect, the question arises as to whether the only thing that has been created here is an additional EU administrative level. Therefore, whether the theory will be followed by practicable implementation, whether the on-line tool OSS will run stably in 2019, and whether applicants can afford multi-country authorisation, are all outcomes that will be revealed in the near future.
[10 July 2018]