The new EU regulation for vehicle authorisation
On 16 November 2017, the decision will be taken as to whether or not there will in future be a new and then a harmonised authorisation procedure for rail vehicles in Europe.
From 15 to 16 November 2017 the ‘Railway Interoperability and Safety Committee’ (RISC for short) will be meeting in Brussels in representation of the EU member states with the aim of making a recommendation for the final draft of a European authorisation regulation for rail vehicles, which is now on the table. For almost two years, the draft has been in the process of discussion and preparation with all the EU member states and protagonists from the railway sector. Yet even in its final version it is still regarded as somewhat critical – which means that so far, a positive vote in the RISC looks to be anything but certain.
The fourth railway package – the authorisation regulation
If the draft failed to meet with approval among the member states, one of the main pillars of the European Commission’s fourth railway package would collapse; the principal demand of the railway industry, namely that this sector should finally be deregulated and made uniform throughout Europe, would fall through. By implementing the authorisation regulation, those involved hope to improve their competitive strength in relation to other modes of transport.
If on the other hand the draft does meet with approval, the world of rail will change, and not only for train manufacturers and rail operators. The draft packs a punch; not without reason is it viewed in expert circles as the most major legal change in the modern age of the railway industry: apart from a completely new authorisation procedure for rail vehicles, harmonised throughout Europe, the licensing authorities of the member states will also surrender a wide range of responsibilities to Europe, the applicants and private testing organisations. The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), with its registered office in the French city of Valenciennes, would shift into the centre of the authorisation procedure and thus come to perform classical administrative duties at European level. Manufacturers and applicants would in future be forced to have the conformity and safety of their products validated and verified exclusively via independent private test agencies.
To summarise, there are not only completely new processes up ahead for one of the most important European transport carriers – to which all the protagonists will first need to adapt – but also completely new responsibilities. The regulation of these new processes and responsibilities will on the one hand be the subject of a European administrative law which is only now coming into being; on the other, it will become the content of precisely formulated contractual agreements.
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