European railway safety legislation

This page sets out the railway safety legislation that applies across the European Union, either directly or by implementation through national laws and administrative arrangements.

The Railway Safety Directive

The first Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC (as amended) was brought into force to create a common European regulatory framework for railway operational safety, in particular the establishment of safety management systems (SMS) by railway undertakings (train operators) and infrastructure managers, and their assessment and supervision by national safety authorities (such as ORR).

The main purpose of this common approach is to help remove barriers to the establishment of international transport operations and support the creation of a single market for rail transport services in Europe. But it is also intended to harmonise safety levels across the EU by establishing clear duties on Member States to improve railway safety.

The recast Safety Directive 2016/798/EU (part of the so-called Fourth Package of EU rail legislation) takes this common approach a step further by making the EU Agency for Railways (ERA) responsible for the certification of international train operators and their vehicles. Member States have until June 2020 to implement this Directive.

The Railway Safety Directive was implemented in the United Kingdom by:

  • the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS);
  • the Railways (Access to Training Services) Regulations 2006;
  • the Railways (Safety Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006; and the Railways (Accident
    Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005.

The Safety Directive is only intended to apply to the mainline railway. However, in Great Britain ROGS provides a consolidated, coherent set of regulations for all rail-based transport systems (including heritage, light rail, tramways and metros). Though this means some requirements similar to the Safety Directive exist on these systems, in particular the obligation to operate a regulated safety management system.

More information can be found in our ROGS section.

We are working with DfT and the GB rail industry to prepare amended versions of this legislation to reflect the recast safety Directive and we plan to consult on these proposals in 2019.

Common safety methods

Common safety methods (CSMs) are developed by ERA to help establish a single market for rail transport services and ensure that safety is maintained at a high level and, when and where necessary and reasonably practicable, improved. They aim to provide a common approach to assessing, supervising and managing railway safety at EU level and in Member States.

Under ROGS, transport undertakings and infrastructure managers must comply with CSMs as part of their SMS. CSMs are adopted by the European Commission and published as Regulations, which are directly applicable in each Member State.

Read more about common safety methods:

The establishment of the recast safety Directive has required important revisions to the common safety methods on conformity assessment and supervision. These mainly reflect the demands of ERA’s new role in safety certification but they also contain important new emphasis on safety culture and human factors as key components of the SMS. These new regulations were published in 2018 but will not come into force in UK until June 2020.

National Safety Rules

The Railway Safety Directive required Member States to develop a system of national safety rules. We have worked with DfT and RSSB to develop the United Kingdom's national safety rules. In 2007, the rules were notified to the European Commission and are available on the Commission’s NOTIF-IT database.

The recast Safety Directive limits the circumstances in which national rules can be established and requires Governments to remove rules that do not fit these new requirements from their notifications of rules. In 2018, we assisted DfT in removing virtually of the UK’s national safety rules from notification.