The creation of an integrated European railway area also calls for improved “interoperability” – or technical compatibility - of infrastructure, rolling stock, signalling and other subsystems of the rail system, as well as less complex procedures for the authorisation of rolling stock across the European Union's rail network.
Over the years national rail networks have developed different technical specifications for infrastructure. Different gauge widths, electrification standards and safety and signalling systems all make it more difficult and more costly to run a train from one country to another. Specific EU legislation exists to promote interoperability and overcome such differences.
The European Railway Agency plays a central role in promoting interoperability and harmonising technical standards, a process in which cooperation between EU Member States and rail stakeholders is essential.
The European Railway Agency (ERA) based in Lille/Valenciennes, France, helps to build an integrated European railway area by reinforcing rail safety and promoting interoperability. Set up in 2006, ERA develops common technical specifications and common approaches to safety, working closely with stakeholders from the rail sector as well as with national authorities, the EU institutions and other interested parties. Featuring a dedicated Safety Unit, ERA also monitors and reports on rail safety in the EU.
In 2010-2011, the European Commission evaluated the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 establishing the European Railway Agency, with the help of external consultants. The stakeholder consultation was an important part of this process; its results were presented at a public seminar on 10 December 2010.
Presentation on the evaluation of the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 establishing the European Railway Agency - Results of the stakeholder analysis(Disclaimer: this presentation is made available for information purposes only and should be seen as a support to the final report; it cannot be regarded as final nor binding for the European Commission.)
The evaluation was positive overall, citing few areas for improvement. The conclusions were used in the subsequent work on a new ERA Regulation (COM(2013)27).
Notif-IT (Notifications using Information Technology) is a web-based application developed by the European Commission (DG MOVE) in cooperation with the European Railway Agency for the benefit of Member States, industry and the public.
From 1 June 2010, national railway safety and technical rules should be notified to the Commission via Notif-IT. The Commission will evaluate the notifications and publish the notified rules in this database.
Notif-IT will increase the transparency and understanding of national requirements for all stakeholders. This will contribute to achieving the Community objectives for developing railway transport and making national railway systems more interoperable.
Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on safety on the Community's railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification (Railway Safety Directive)
Policy and other related documents
Progress report on the implementation of the Railway Safety Directive Accompanying the document Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a progress report on the implementation of the Railway Safety Directive (SWD(2014) 355 final)
Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the progress made towards achieving interoperability of the rail system (COM(2013)32)
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a Progress Report on the implementation of the Railway Safety Directive and of the Railway interoperability Directives (COM(2009) 464 final)
Progress report on the implementation of the Railway Safety Directive (Directive 2004/49/EC) and of the Railway Interoperability Directives (Directives 96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC) (SEC(2009) 1157) : VOL I , VOL II , VOL III