Background to operator licensing

This guidance explains the legal framework and procedures we use when we consider licensing applications and also explains the types of licences that are available.

Railways Act 1993 - licences

Section 6 of the Railways Act 1993 (the Act) makes it an offense to act as the operator of a railway asset, other than a passenger train or freight train within the scope of the Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005 (the Regulations), without holding a licence or a licence exemption granted under the Act.

This applies to all railway assets regardless of the scale of operations, and includes operators of privately owned freight terminals and other minor networks. Railway assets are trains, networks, stations and light maintenance depots.

An 'operator' is defined as:

'the person having management of that railway asset for the time being'.

For instance, in the case of a train, this would normally be the person from whom the driver takes 'management' instructions, rather than 'signalling' instructions.

Types of licences

There are five different Railways Act licences. One for each category of railway asset.

Network licence

Authorises a person to be the operator of a network, and trains being used on a network for any purpose comprised in the operation of the network.

Passenger train licence

Authorises a person to be the operator of a train being used on a network for the purpose of carrying passengers by railway.

Non-passenger train licence

Authorises a person to be the operator of other trains being used on a network. This is the type of licence held by some rail maintenance and renewal companies.

Station licence

Authorises a person to operate one or more specified stations.

Light maintenance depot licence

Authorises a person to operate one or more specified light maintenance depots.

European licences

The Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005 require most people who want to operate passenger trains or freight trains in Great Britain to hold an appropriate European passenger licence or European freight licence, and a Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRP).

Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRP)

For train operators required to hold European licences granted by us, or by other European regulators, the various conditions for operating in Great Britain are set out in a Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRP).

We grant two different types of European licence:

European passenger licence

Authorises a railway company to run passenger trains. This type of licence is typically held by passenger train operators who run on the mainline.

European freight licence

Authorises a railway company to run freight trains. This type of licence is typically held by freight train operators who run on the mainline.

In principle, European licences permit railway undertakings to operate the described services in any EEA state.

To operate within Great Britain, holders of European licences also need a Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRP) from us. Other EEA states may require European licence holders to satisfy national regulatory requirements particular to each state.

Last updated - 10 April 2014