The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the Association of the European Railway Industry (UNIFE), the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA), the International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP), the European Passenger Train and Traction Operating Lessors Association (EPTTOLA), UIC (International Union of Railways), UITP (International Association of Public Transport) and UIRR (International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport) have persistently highlighted the need to establish the European Railway Agency (ERA) as the one-stop-shop for safety certification in Europe and encourage the Council of the European Union to build on what has been achieved so far. They ask the council to apply the principles set out in the Interoperability Directive to the Safety Directive.
The European railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, rail manufacturers and suppliers call for a European Railway Agency (ERA) that will act in the future as the EU’s single railway authority, and as the one-stop-shop for safety certification and vehicle authorisation. These tasks shall be performed in close cooperation with the National Safety Authorities (NSA), especially in order to assess all remaining national rules.
Nonetheless, an alternative idea has been developed by some member states for the safety directive and is currently under discussion in the transport working group of the council. According to this alternative, each National Safety Authority (NSA) would act as the one stop-shop in coordination with the other NSAs concerned. A given NSA - acting as the “lead NSA” - would be the coordinator and responsible for the correct application of processes and for issuing safety certification. This approach fully depends on mutual respect and is likely to fail due to diverging national approaches. In addition, in case of disagreement among the NSAs, there would be no independent appeal body to call upon, therefore decisions could endlessly be left pending because the “equal” parties fail to reach common solutions. The concept of the “lead NSA” will result in the continuity of today’s inefficient and long lasting processes for receiving safety certification. The proposal must be rejected in order to overcome a challenging situation and not simply maintain today’s problematic framework.
The European railway sector has been calling for the support of European Institutions to create a modern, flexible and efficient railway sector by enhancing the role of the European Railway Agency (ERA). The Agency issuing vehicle authorisations and safety certification, in close cooperation with the National Safety Authorities, would be a significant step forward. In order to perform these new tasks the Agency must be equipped with competent, highly skilled and sufficient staff. Following the “lead NSA” approach would cement the existing unacceptable situation and is moreover an irreversible step back in the wrong direction.
In a few days a decisive council meeting on the safety directive proposed by the Lithuanian Presidency will take place. The rail sector expects that a general approach will be approved during this meeting by the Member States. This should continue in the direction of an enhanced role of ERA via the issuing of Safety Certification and further moving towards the Single European Railway Area.