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 objective of the Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC (as amended) is to create a common European regulatory framework for safety, in particular, the maintenance of safety management systems (SMS). It is intended that a common approach will help to break down barriers to the establishment of international transport operations and help create a single market for rail transport services in Europe.

The introduction of a certification scheme for entities in charge of maintenance (ECM) of freight wagons aims to improve the competitiveness of the freight sector in the UK and across the EU by reducing the administrative costs associated with establishing freight wagon safety. The purpose of the Railway Safety Directive is to:

  • harmonise railway safety regulatory structures across Europe;
  • define responsibilities between various players (operators, infrastructure, national safety authorities, ECMs, etc.);
  • develop common safety targets and common safety methods (developed by a European Commission agency called the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA);
  • establish safety authorities and accident investigation bodies; and
  • define common principles for the management, regulation and supervision of railway safety.

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.

In Great Britain ROGS provides a consolidated, coherent set of regulations for railways (including heritage, light rail, and metros); other guided transport systems, such as monorails; and tramways. Though this means some requirements similar to the Safety Directive exist on these systems, the Directive only applies to the mainline railway.

More information can be found in our ROGS section.

Directive (EU) 2016/798 was adopted by the European Commission on 11 May 2016 as part of the Fourth Railway Package. This is a recast of  to revise the Railway Safety Directive and Member States have until 16 June 2019 to transpose the requirements into domestic legislation. ORR will be working with the Department for Transport to develop proposals for transposition in Great Britain and will be contacting stakeholders about out implementation plans in due course.

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 assess the level of safety and performance of operators 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:

National Safety Rules

The Railway Safety Directive requires 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.  A European-wide exercise is now underway to rationalise national safety rules using a risk management tool developed by ERA.  We will update this page on progress with Great Britain's rules as the work is progressed.