The fourth railway package and product authorisation

law firm 4th Railway Package

New European authorisation regulation for rail vehicles - follow up

Why manufacturers and operators should come to terms with this subject now

On 16 November 2017, the European Commission's RISC committee cleared the way to a new and harmonised authorisation procedure for rail vehicles.

RISC meeting

After further intensive negotiations, adjustments and amendments, the 'Railway Interoperability and Safety Committee“ (RISC for short) approved the draft by the European Commission for a European authorisation regulation in the railway industry on 16 November 2017. This approval by the RISC (in representation of the EU member states), now that it has finally been reached, is another milestone in the implementation of the planned legislation for the fourth railway package. This means that as from June 2019 in the European Union there will be a completely new authorisation procedure for rail vehicles, harmonised right across Europe.  

The fourth railway package – the authorisation regulation 

The new authorisation regulation for rail vehicles, drawn up by the European Commission on the basis of the revised Interoperability Directive (EU 2016/797), is seen as a key component of the technical pillar within the fourth railway package. Via uniform regulations and requirements, the aim is to dismantle the various different national hurdles in vehicle authorisation and reduce the costs, duration and complexity of the individual approval procedures. The aim, at the end of it all, is to have both notices of authorisation which are valid throughout Europe and harmonised railway vehicles and infrastructures, making barrier-free cross-border traffic possible within the EU. By this simplification and standardisation of processes the railway industry hopes to achieve cost savings of up to 20%, and thus improved attractiveness, profitability and competitive strength for the sector as a whole.

The new Implementing Act for the authorisation of rail vehicles is to be published in the Official Journal of the EU in the spring of 2018, subsequently coming into force in all EU member states in June 2019. The act will see member states surrendering concrete administrative responsibilities, competences and procedures to Europe and private testing organisations. Basically, the European railway sector is celebrating the new authorisation regulation as a success, but in spite of that the document – even in its final amendment – is not entirely free of controversy. Between now and June 2019, both the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), which will be moving centre stage as regards vehicle authorisation, and the national authorities still have a good deal to do. Apart from the abolition and / or adaptation of the national administrative procedures, these very approval procedures, processes, structures, agencies and instruments still need to be developed, implemented and established at European level. Given that, it is no surprise that at the present time the draft still has some gaps in it, or that critical aspects of product authorisation so far remain unclarified or have not been provided for conclusively. Here and there, there is even talk of a retrograde step for the railway sector, immature processes and an administrative 'monster' at European level. 


In the months ahead all the protagonists of the European railway industry will have to get attuned to these new processes. Moreover, until such time as the authorisation regulation comes into force, further supplementary acts of law and legislative procedures are expected – at European and nationalal level – , and they are likely to contribute further to the complexity of the issue. 

We will keep you informed.

[February 9th, 2018]