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ERA Set to Become the THE Railway Authority in Europe

Following the adoption of the 4th Railway Package in May 2016, the ERA will get new powers starting 16 June 2019, following a three-year transposition period for Member States. The ‘technical pillar’ of the Fourth Railway Package gives the ERA a key role in making sure that European railway legislation is implemented. 

ICE 4 train in Germany © Deutsche Bahn AG
ICE 4 train in Germany © Deutsche Bahn AG / Georg Wagner

The ERA will authorise trains (Vehicle Authorisation, VA) that operate across European borders and issue safety certificates (Single Safety Certificates, SSC) that are valid in several EU countries. It will also make sure any trackside ERTMS implemented is interoperable.

Thierry Brayne, Head the Planning and Approval Delivery Unit (PAD), ERA, said:

“we expect in the first year around 30–40 VA applications and around 5–10 SSC applications”.

Those wishing to make a Vehicle Authorisation or Single Safety Certificate application can use the One-Stop Shop tool, which has been live since February 2019. Submissions can be made from 16 June.

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4th Railway Package: Implementing Countries

In December 2018 nine countries informed the European Commission that they would transpose the details of the 4th Railway Package into national law and implement the new system by 16 June 2019. They are: Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia. Switzerland discussed the ERA with the EU during the 35th Meeting of the Inland Transport Committee and will also begin adoption as quickly as possible following some clarifications.

Given the complexity of the undertaking, other Member States will follow suit by June 2020. In its 2018 Annual Report CER said that as a consequence of this one-year delay there would be

“a patchwork of regulatory frameworks […], presenting a challenge in particular for safety certification, vehicle authorisation andERTMS trackside authorisation”.

Josef Doppelbauer, Executive Director, ERA, wrote in the ERA newsletter:

“After ages of conflicts and two devastating wars between European countries in the twentieth century, the vision of Europe is to ensure peace and prosperity for all EU citizens, and to make Europe a good place to live. This requires free movement of people and goods between all European countries, the highest safety standards and universal access to services. Applied to railways, that vision is to be realised as SERA, a Single European Railway Area. […]

“EU-wide harmonised rules make acquiring an international vehicle authorisation or safety certificate more reliable and transparent and as a consequence, reduce costs and project risks for applicants (railway companies). This can help to make railways gain a competitive advantage and to make them more affordable for their customers.”

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