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Informal deal on technical pillar of 4th railway package reached

An informal deal to remove the technical obstacles that differing national standards and procedures place in the way of rail operators and rolling stock manufacturers was struck by MEPs and EU and the Latvian Presidency of the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. This deal, on the “technical pillar” of the 4th railway package should cut the time and cost involved in certifying that operators, locomotives and carriages meet safety and technical standards.

For cross-border services, applications for safety certification and authorisation of locomotives and carriages will be made to the European Railway Agency (ERA), says the agreed text. For services within a member state, operators and manufacturers would be able to choose whether to apply either to the ERA or to the national authorities.

Parliament’s negotiators ensured that the new certification and authorisation arrangements would be operational within 3 years of the entry into force of the new rules. EU member states may extend this period by one year, if they notify the ERA and the European Commission and justify the extension. The agreement also provides for further harmonization of technical standards over time.

“This could be the breakthrough for the European Railway Area. We have managed to overcome separate national procedures and create EU-wide rules that will help industry to make trains cheaper and safer. Instead of 26 national procedures, manufacturers will be able to use just one procedure in Europe. The ERA will help overcome more than 11,000 national rules. This lays the foundation for the European Railway Area, ” stated Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, DE), Transport Committee chair and rapporteur for the railway safety directive.

The informal deal on the 4th railway package technical pillar files still needs to be approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Council and Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee and then the Council and Parliament as a whole. Representatives of the incoming Luxembourg Council Presidency said that they would aim to achieve a Council position on the political pillar files at the October Council meeting.

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