EU law

The EU has an ambitious strategy for rail: the creation of a single, efficient and competitive market for rail throughout Europe. It aims to achieve this through:

  • Opening rail markets
  • Promoting competition
  • Tackling barriers to market entry
  • Harmonisation of technical specifications (interoperability)
  • Harmonisation of safety standards and certification

The European Commission has put forward several legislative "packages"– successive steps towards a common legal framework for infrastructure management and operations.

ORR's involvement in European policy has two main elements:

  • Influencing the formation of EU law, so that the best possible result is achieved for the UK rail industry
  • Implementation of EU law, in the best way for the UK.

So far we have had success in achieving EU legislation that is compatible with the UK model, and implementation has not been disruptive for the UK rail industry.

The First Railway Package

The First Railway Package, adopted by the European Commission in 2001, is an important suite of European Directives. It is designed to:

  • open the international rail freight market,
  • establish a general framework for the development of European railways, and clarify the formal relationship between the State and the infrastructure manager on the one hand, and between the infrastructure manager and railway undertakings (train operators) on the other hand (Directive 2001/12/EC);
  • set out the conditions that freight operators must meet in order to be granted a licence to operate services on the European rail network (Directive 2001/13/EC);
  • introduce a defined policy for capacity allocation and infrastructure charging (Directive 2001/14/EC).

How the first package was implemented

The first railway package was implemented in the UK in November 2005 by:

ORR is the economic regulatory body for the UK, pursuant to Article 30 of Directive 2001/14/EC

The Second Railway Package

The Second Railway Package was adopted by the European Commission in 2004. Its aim is to create a legally and technically integrated European railway area. The package contains four pieces of legislation and a recommendation:

  • Directive 2004/49/EC (the Railway Safety Directive, now amended by Directive 2008/110/EC) develops a common approach to rail safety. It lays down a clear procedure for granting the safety certificates which every railway company must obtain before it can run trains on the European network and harmonises safety levels across Europe by, among other things; specifying what infrastructure managers need to do in order to receive safety authorisation.
  • Directive 2004/50/EC which amended Directives 96/48 and 2001/16 on the interoperability of the European high speed and conventional rail systems respectively and now updated by Directive 2008/57/EC (the Interoperability Directive) harmonises and clarifies interoperability requirements;
  • Directive 2004/51/EC opens up both national and international freight services on the entire European network from 1 January 2007;
  • Regulation (EC) 881/2004 (now amended by Regulation 1335/2008) sets up an effective steering body, the European Railway Agency, to co-ordinate groups of technical experts seeking common solutions on safety and interoperability; and
  • A recommendation covering the accession of the European Community to the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (COTIF).

How the second package was implemented

The Second Railway Package was implemented in the UK in 2006 by:

The accession to COTIF is currently being implemented.

Third Railway Package

The European Commission adopted a third package of measures on 26 September 2007, to open up international passenger services to competition within the EU by 2010. It consists of:

  • Directive 2007/58/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure: envisages opening the market for international passenger services to competition from 1 January 2010;
  • Directive 2007/59/EC on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the community: lays down conditions and procedures for the certification of train crews operating locomotives and trains; and
  • Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers' rights and obligations: ensures basic rights for passengers, for example, with regard to insurance, ticketing, and for passengers with reduced mobility.

How the third package was implemented

Directive 2007/58/EC was implemented in June 2009 by:

ORR has published guidance on the assessment of new international passenger services pdf icon PDF, 345 Kb which sets out how we would apply the 'principal purpose' and 'economic equilibrium' tests as provided for in the Regulations.

Directive 2007/59/EC was implemented in March 2010 by The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 and Regulation 1371/2007 is implemented through The Rail Passengers' Right and Obligations Regulations 2010, effective from 25 June 2010.

Regulation 1371/2007 entered into force on 3 December 2009, in full for international passenger services but only in respect of the core provisions for domestic services and was implemented through SI 2009/2970.

Recast of the first railway package

On 17 September 2010 the European Commission adopted a draft proposal to amend the First Railway Package directives. The recast aimed to simplify and consolidate the rules by merging three directives and their amendments into a single text. In addition, the recast seeks to clarify existing provisions and tackle key problem areas which have been identified in the market over the last ten years, including:

  • Clear rules for the funding and management of infrastructure
  • Access to rail-related facilities (depots, maintenance etc.)
  • Independence and competence of regulatory bodies

The Recast  (Directive 2012/34/EC) was finalised in November 2012, and must be implemented in domestic UK law by April 2015.

Fourth Railway Package

In February 2013 The Commission unveiled proposals for the "Fourth Package". This package is intended as the 'final step' towards the legal framework for a single European area. It has several separate legislative measures, covering:

  • Infrastructure governance and funding
  • Competitive tendering of rail PSO contracts
  • Technical authorisation
  • Safety certification
  • The role of the European Rail Agency

Negotiations are likely to continue through 2014.

Other relevant EU legislation

Other relevant international legislation

Last updated - 10 April 2014