European Union Agency for Railways

In “Transport and Tourism - TRAN”

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The aim of the Regulation (EU) 2016/796 on the European Union Agency for Railways is to replace the original founding Regulation (EC) 881/2004 of the European Railway Agency, and add new important tasks to the Agency making it a truly European Railway Authority in the field of interoperability and safety.

The European Commission published its legislative proposal on 30 January 2013, in the framework of the Fourth Railway Package.

In 2001, 2004 and 2007, three legislative ‘railway packages’ were adopted to open up the national markets and make railways more competitive and interoperable at the EU level, while maintaining high level of safety. However, the modal share of rail in intra-EU transport has remained modest. This prompted the Commission to put forward the Fourth Railway Package in order to enhance the quality and efficiency of rail services by removing the remaining obstacles.

This Regulation aims to:

  • accelerate administrative procedures and avoid disguised discrimination;
  • establish a common approach to safety and interoperability rules to increase economies of scale for railway undertakings operating in the EU;
  • decrease administrative costs;
  • expand the European Union Agency for Railways' powers.

The Agency should in particular:

  • play the role of European authority responsible for issuing authorisations for placing on the market for railway vehicles and for types of vehicles, safety certificates for railway undertakings and authorisations for placing in service of trackside control-command and signalling sub-systems;
  • monitor national railway rules and the performance of national authorities acting in the railway interoperability and safety fields;
  • provide independent and objective technical support, predominantly to the Commission;
  • have a strengthened role in the field of telematics applications to ensure their consistent development and swift deployment;
  • be given a more important role to ensure the consistent development of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

The proposal introduces also an appeal mechanism so that decisions of the Agency’s Executive Director can be subject to appeal to a specialised Board of Appeal, whose decisions are, in turn, open to action before the Court of Justice.

Lastly, in order to perform its tasks properly, the Agency has legal personality and an autonomous budget funded mainly through a contribution by the Union and through fees and charges paid by applicants.

This proposal was adopted by the European Parliament (EP) by a large majority in February 2014. In its first reading resolution, the EP strived to clarify the Agency’s objectives and tasks and to ensure that it can guarantee a high level of rail safety. It insisted that the Agency be given a more prominent role to ensure consistent development of the ERTMS and be able to monitor National Safety Authorities (NSAs) also organising audits and inspections. It underlined at the same time the necessary cooperation between the Agency and national authorities, in particular giving them the maximum possible assistance in case of an investigation for which the Agency would have a responsibility. The EP also took the view that the proposed Regulation should not only apply to the certification of train drivers foreseen in Directive 2007/59/EC but also to the certification of all on-board railway personnel dealing with safety critical tasks.

In its discharge decision granted by the European Parliament to the Agency in April 2016, noting the new responsibilities of the Agency in the field of safety and interoperability, the Parliament underlined the need for adequate financial, material and human resources. In order to save financial resources, it also called for a single location of the Agency, which while based in Valenciennes has conference facilities in Lille.

In its December 2015 position the Council opted for a dual system of authorisations and certifications : the Agency will act as a 'one- stop shop' for issuing vehicle authorisations and safety certificates for rail cross-border operations and a choice will be given between the Agency and NSAs for national traffic.

An informal agreement between the EP, the Council and the Commission was reached in June 2015, which was subsequently adopted by the EP on 28 April 2016. The Regulation 2016/796  was officially signed by the Council and the EP on 11 May 2016. It entered into force on the twentieth day after official publication.


Further reading:

Author: Damiano Scordamaglia, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/02/2023.