By / December 10, 2013

4th Railway Package: focus on Interoperability

On 30th January 2013 the European Commission adopted the 4th railway package, made up of six legislative proposals aiming at…

© Harald Biebel / fotolia

On 30th January 2013 the European Commission adopted the 4th railway package, made up of six legislative proposals aiming at enhancing the quality and efficiency of rail services and introducing more choice in railway services in Europe.  Among the proposed measures, the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the rail system within the European Union (COM 2013/015)  introduces a number of changes to the current legislation in order to achieve a real technical harmonisation of the in the European railway sector. At present, Member States still maintain different operational rules and requirements which significantly add to the transport infrastructure barriers and bottlenecks.

4th Railway Package: focus on Interoperability
© Harald Biebel / Fotolia

The current technical standards and approvals system for trains and rolling stock, in fact, is fragmented between the European Railway Agency (ERA) and national authorities, thus creating excessive administrative costs and market access barriers, especially for new entrants and rail vehicle manufacturers. ERA estimates that there are currently over 11000 such rules in the EU. Once fully implemented, interoperability will guarantee that built and certified  trains and rolling stock have the technical and requirements to run everywhere in Europe, thus enabling the realisation of a single railway market.  Interoperability is realised through the production of Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs), that is of specifications by which each subsystem or part of subsystem is covered in order to meet the essential requirements and to ensure the interoperability of the trans-European high speed and conventional rail systems. The development process for TSIs is currently managed by ERA in cooperation with the railway representative organisations and national safety authorities, as well as with the European standardisation bodies and notified bodies.

The vote in the TRAN Committee (Rapporteur Izaskun BILBAO BARANDICA) is scheduled on 17th December 2013.


Council reaches position on rail interoperability / Agence Europe, 11 June 2013

Progress with railway interoperability in the European Union / European Railway Agency, 2011, 79 p.
This report analyses the overall progress with rail interoperability in the EU Member States and Norway covering data for 2009, and, where information was available, for 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

Railway safety and interoperability, Library of the European Parliament, 2010, 6 p.
This briefing focuses on railway safety performance and its interoperability. Existing rail safety rules and practices as well as the quality of their implementation are examined.

Impact of Interoperability on the global railway network, UIC, 2008, 11 p.
This paperwork underlines the economic impact that railway interoperability has on rail business both from passenger and freight transport perspective.


Initial appraisal of a European Commission Impact Assessment  European Commission proposals for a Regulation on the EU Agency for Railways, a Directive on the interoperability of the rail system, and a Directive on railway safety / European Parliament Impact Assessment Unit, 2013, 8 p.
This note, prepared by the Impact Assessment Unit for the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), analyses whether the principal criteria laid down in the Commission’s own Impact Assessment Guidelines, as well as additional factors identified by the Parliament in its Impact Assessment Handbook, appear to be met by the Impact Assessment (IA).It concludes that the legislative proposals and the Commission IA submitted by the Commission appear to correspond.

Competition and the railroads: A European perspective / Knieps,G; Institut für Verkehrswissenschaft und Regionalpolitik, 2012, 27 p.
This discussion paper focuses on the impact that interoperability requirements might have on the implementation of the open market for rail services.

Interoperability of the train systems. Scandinavian-Adriatic Corridor for Growth and Innovation / SCANDRIA, 2012, 114 p.
This study report focuses on the implementation of train systems interoperability along the on the SCANDRIA corridor Berlin-Brandenburg to Scandinavia focuses on the analysis of infrastructure, vehicle and operation related aspects of interoperability, identifies major obstacles and gives some general recommendations in order to contribute to the SCANDRIA investment strategy.

Assessing the Variation in Rail Interoperability in 11 European Countries, and Barriers to its Improvement / Walker, W.E; Baarse, G; European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, 2009, issue 1, pp. 4-30
This article summarises the research carried out within REORIENT, a Sixth Framework project for the European Commission. It descibes the state of play of transformation of the European railway sector into a functionally integrated, liberalised and interoperable system. The study reports a considerable variation in interoperability status across the countries on practically all of the requirements.

Rail Interoperability & Safety /  KEMA; RTC, 2007, 182 p.
This report commissioned by the European aims at analysing the transposition of legislation and progress in the field of rail interoperability and safety, identifying where and why the European railway legislation possibly fails to meet its goals, and if so, proposing recommendations. In their conclusions, the authors emphasise the importance of the following points: need to strengthen the management of train/track interfaces including operations; corridor implementation strategy and financial instruments; future development of EU railway legislation; culture and knowledge transfer.

Stakeholders views

European Commission
Report on the progress made towards achieving interoperability of the rail system (COM/2013/032)

Infringement proceedings
In February 2013, and in October 2012 the Commission has referred respectively Slovenia and Poland to the Court of Justice or failure to notify national measures transposing a directive on railway interoperability; in October In June 2011, the European Commission has formally requested Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom to fully implement the railway interoperability Directive of 2008 (2008/57/EC) and its 2009 amendment.

European Economic and Social Committee
Opinion on the Fourth railway package, July 2012

European Council
The Council agreed on a general approach to a recast of the 2008 Directive on the interoperability of the EU rail system. While the Commission proposed a centralised authorisation procedure, the general approach agreed provides for a dual system of authorisations with a clear separation of tasks and responsibilities between the ERA and national safety authorities

Railway industry
Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE); International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP);  European Rail Freight Association (ERFA); International Union for Road-Rail combined transport (UIRR); International Union of Railways (UIC)

With a joint press release (December 2013), railway industry organisations confirm their strong support for the Technical Pillar of the Fourth Railway Package and stress the importance and urgency for reaching a sound agreement at the European Parliament as soon as possible. Furthermore, the railway sector calls upon the European institutions to adopt the Technical Pillar of the Fourth Railway Package before the European elections of May 2014.

Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER)
The Fourth Railway Package’s Technical Pillar on the buckled track to full interoperability in Europe (June 2013)
CER fairly welcomes the adoption of the General Approach by the Council on the Interoperability Directive, even though the organisation expresses concerns on a number of aspects.

Related legislative procedure

2013/0015(COD) Interoperability of the rail system within the EU. Recast. 4th Railway Package

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