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For a European standard for the approval of locomotives

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For a European standard for the approval of locomotives

This Communication sets out a series of measures designed to make the rail industry more competitive in relation to other means of transport. The Commission proposes simplifying the procedures for the approval of locomotives and enforcing the mutual recognition principle in this sector. It also suggests merging the Directives on railway interoperability and enhancing the powers of the European Railway Agency


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 13 December 2006 - "Facilitating the movement of locomotives across the European Union" [COM(2006) 782 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


In its mid-term review of the White Paper on European transport policy, the Commission reaffirmed the environmental advantages of rail travel and the key role it plays in the concept of sustainable mobility. The Commission also introduced a range of initiatives to remove technical and operational barriers to international rail activities, both for conventional and high-speed services, whether for transporting freight or passengers. The aim is to make the rail industry more competitive, particularly in relation to road and air transport, by creating an increasingly integrated railways area across the European Union.

Simplifying national procedures for the approval of locomotives

One of the main obstacles to developing a Community railway system is the fact that rolling stock that has been approved for operational service in one Member State is not automatically accepted in another Member State. The cross-acceptance of rolling stock is, in fact, subject to very different national requirements, and international operators must repeatedly undergo approval procedures in each Member State in which they intend to operate, often requiring supporting evidence that is not mutually recognised by Member States. Cross-acceptance exists for wagons and passenger carriages, but not for locomotives. Experience has shown that this results in delays and additional expense, both for railway companies and manufacturers.

Historically, there have been very close links between Member States and their nationalised railway industries, which has meant that, because of national specificities, the manufacturing market has remained very closed. The current solutions include signing bilateral or multilateral agreements. However, the proliferation of such agreements would be likely to lead to further fragmentation of the market and even greater complexity.

Consequently, during the consultation process, it became clear that the mutual recognition principle was not being sufficiently applied in the railway sector. Indeed, there is a lack of awareness of this principle on the part of businesses and national authorities. Furthermore, there is still legal uncertainty about its scope and the burden of proof. The Commission therefore wishes to:

  • propose that Member States apply a guide drawn up by a task force that worked on the problem in 2005, thereby creating favourable conditions for the emergence of new services, especially in the freight sector, which would dovetail with the opening up of the market from 1 January 2007;
  • amend the legislation on the procedure for authorising the entry into service of new and existing rolling stock, making it possible to create a precise framework procedure to assist the newly created national safety authorities;
  • ensure that the European Railway Agency can develop and update the cross-acceptance procedure on the basis of Member States' contributions.

Consolidating/merging/recasting the Railway Interoperability Directives

Directives 96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and the conventional rail system respectively, which were substantially amended in 2004, are now to be merged into a single act.

Amending the Rail Safety Directive

The Commission also proposes amending Article 14 of Directive 2004/49/EC on safety on the Community's railways in order to establish a Community-wide procedure that involves:

  • introducing the principle of mutual recognition by Member States of authorisations already issued by another Member State to bring equipment into service;
  • extending the Agency's powers to enable it to compile an inventory of the different national procedures and technical regulations in force and maintain the list of requirements;
  • amending the Regulation establishing a European Railway Agency.

The new tasks to be assigned to the Agency are:

  • developing a reference document cross-referencing all the national rules;
  • organising the work of the network of national safety authorities;
  • producing technical opinions if requested by the national safety authorities or the Commission.

Last updated: 14.01.2008