Directive 2004/49/EC — safety on the EU’s railways
It aims to establish a more competitive and safer railway system which covers the entire European Union (EU) market area instead of confining itself mainly to national markets.
The directive applies to the railway system of the EU countries and covers safety requirements for the system as a whole, including infrastructure and traffic management, and the interaction between railway undertakings* and infrastructure managers*.
In this connection, the directive focuses on 4 major aspects:
the setting up, in each EU country, of an authority responsible for supervising safety;
the mutual recognition of safety certificates delivered in the EU countries;
the establishment of common safety indicators (CSIs) in order to assess that the system complies with the common safety targets (CSTs) and facilitate the monitoring of railway safety performance;
the definition of common rules for safety investigations.
Development and management of safety
Safety rules and standards, such as operating rules, signalling rules, requirements on staff and technical requirements applicable to rolling stock have been devised mainly nationally.
These national safety rules, should gradually be replaced by rules based on common standards, established by technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs) — the ability of equipment or groups to operate in conjunction with each other. The European Commission has the power to suspend the implementation of a national safety rule for a maximum of 6 months.
In this connection, the EU countries must ensure that:
railway safety is generally maintained and continuously improved, taking into consideration the development of EU legislation;
safety rules are laid down, applied and enforced in an open and non-discriminatory manner;
infrastructure managers and railway undertakings must take responsibility for the safe operation of the railway system and the control of risks associated with it;
information is collected on common safety indicators through annual reports in order to assess the achievement of the CSTs and monitor the general development of railway safety.
In order to be granted access to the railway infrastructure, a railway undertaking must hold a safety certificate. This safety certificate may cover the whole railway network of an EU country or only a defined part thereof.
For international transport services, it should be enough to approve the safety management system in one EU country and give the approval EU-wide validity.
Adherence to national laws on the other hand should be subject to additional certification in each EU country.
The safety certificate must be renewed upon application by the railway undertaking at intervals not exceeding 5 years. It must be wholly or partly updated whenever the type or extent of the operation is substantially altered.
In addition to the safety requirements laid down in the certificate, licensed railway undertakings must comply with national requirements, compatible with EU law and applied in a non-discriminatory manner, relating to health, safety and social conditions, including rules relating to driving time, and the rights of workers and consumers.
An essential aspect of safety is the training and certification of staff, particularly of train drivers. The training covers operating rules, the signalling system, the knowledge of routes and emergency procedures.
Maintenance of vehicles
Before it is placed in service or used on the network, each vehicle is assigned a maintenance entity (which may be, in particular, a railway undertaking or an infrastructure manager). The entity ensures the working order of vehicles by introducing a system of maintenance in accordance with the vehicle’s maintenance book and the applicable safety requirements.
National safety authority
Each EU country must establish a safety authority which is independent from railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, applicants for certificates and procurement entities. It will:
respond promptly to requests and applications;
communicate its requests for information without delay; and
adopt all its decisions within 4 months after all requested information has been provided.
The safety authority will carry out all inspections and investigations that are needed for the accomplishment of its tasks and be granted access to all relevant documents and to premises, installations and equipment of infrastructure managers and railway undertakings.
Accident and incident investigations
Serious train accidents, such as derailments and collisions with fatal consequences, occur rarely, but when they do they attract public interest and the interest of safety professionals all over Europe.
Criteria governing the independence of the investigating body are strictly defined so that this body has no link with the various actors of the sector. This body decides whether or not an investigation of such an accident or incident should be undertaken, and determines the extent of investigations and the procedure to be followed.
Each EU country must ensure that investigations of accidents and incidents are conducted by a permanent body, which comprises at least one investigator able to perform the function of investigator–in–charge in the event of an accident or incident.
Repeal of Directive 2004/49/EC
Directive (EU) 2016/798 repeals and replaces Directive 2004/49/EC with effect from 16 June 2020. The new directive aims to improve railway safety across the EU by revising the role of national safety authorities (NSAs) and reallocating responsibilities between them and the European Union Agency for Railways. Annex V to Directive 2004/49/EC must apply until the date of application of the implementing acts referred to in Article 24(2) of Directive (EU) 2016/798 (reporting structure for accident and incident investigation reports).
Directive (EU) 2016/798 is one of 3 legislative acts covering the technical aspects of the fourth railway package which aims to revitalise the rail sector and deliver a better quality of service and more choice to passengers. It works alongside the regulation on the European Union Agency for Railways and the directive on the interoperability of the rail system.
Application & Background
The directive has applied since 30 April 2004. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 30 April 2006.
For more information, see:
Rail — Safety (European Commission).
Railway undertakings: public or private companies involved in the supply of goods and/or passenger transport services by rail.
Infrastructure managers: bodies or companies responsible, in particular for establishing, building and maintaining infrastructure or a part of it, and safety. In some EU countries, safety may be delegated to railway undertakings.
Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on safety on the Community’s railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification (Railway Safety Directive) (OJ L 164, 30.4.2004, pp. 44-113). Text republished in corrigendum (OJ L 220, 21.6.2004, pp. 16-39)
Successive amendments to Directive 2004/49/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Regulation (EU) 2016/796 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Railways and repealing Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 (OJ L 138, 26.5.2016, pp. 1-43)
Directive (EU) 2016/797 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the interoperability of the rail system within the European Union (OJ L 138, 26.5.2016, pp. 44-101)
Directive (EU) 2016/798 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on railway safety (OJ L 138, 26.5.2016, pp. 102-149)
Directive 2008/68/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 2008 on the inland transport of dangerous goods (OJ L 260, 30.9.2008, pp. 13-59)
See consolidated version
Directive 2008/57/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the interoperability of the rail system within the Community (Recast) (OJ L 191, 18.7.2008, pp. 1-45)
See consolidated version
Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations (OJ L 315, 3.12.2007, pp. 14-41)
Directive 2007/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community (OJ L 315, 3.12.2007, pp. 51-78)
See consolidated version
Commission Regulation (EC) No 653/2007 of 13 June 2007 on the use of a common European format for safety certificates and application documents in accordance with Article 10 of Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and on the validity of safety certificates delivered under Directive 2001/14/EC (OJ L 153, 14.6.2007, pp. 9-24)
See consolidated version.
Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (OJ L 299, 18.11.2003, pp. 9-19)