Rail transport originated in England and its development was one of the consequences of the Industrial Revolution that took place at the beginning of the 19th century. With increasing speed, the train enabled communication and the transporting of merchandise and the public throughout worldwide cities.


Today, the rail system has become a means of mass transportation where the safety of users is crucial with their growth in numbers. However, safety standards can vary considerably from one country to another. In addition to an administration that can be complex, they may prevent rail companies from accessing markets. Community harmonization of safety standards has therefore been envisaged by the Community’s authorities.

With the objective of introducing general legislation in Europe in the field of rail transport safety, the European Parliament adopted Directive 2004/49/CE:

> This railway transport safety directive will be amended by a change to the article that defines the conditions in which the use of rolling stock used in a Member State may be authorized on the railway network of another Member State. The newly proposed provision provides for the mutual recognition of rolling stock being used: in other words, rolling stock that has already been certified in a Member State will not be subject to an identical or equivalent certification procedure in another Member State, except in relation to specific national requirements.



> April 1, 1989. Directive 2004/49/EEC of the European Parliament and Council on the safety of 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; Directive 2004/50/EC of the European Parliament and Council amending Directive 96/48/EC of the Council and Directive 2001/16/EC of the interoperability of the trans-European railway system; Regulation (EC) No. 881/2004 of the European Parliament and Council creating the European Rail Agency; Directive 2004/51/EC of the European Parliament and Council amending Directive 91/440/EEC of the Council related to the development of Community railways.
> Approval of the common project by the European Parliament on 22 April.
> Approval of the common project by the Council on 26 April.

Signed by the European Parliament and Council on 29 April. This “railway package” contributes to accelerating market integration by eliminating significant obstacles to trans-border services, will guarantee a high level of safety for the operations of railways and will reduce costs and facilitate operations through a greater harmonization of technical standards in the railway sector. It specifically includes:

1 > A proposal to amend Directive91/440/EEC so as to spread access rights to the railway freight services infrastructure within a Member State and accelerate the opening of the market. The international railway freight market should be concluded by 2006. The agreed date for total opening of railway freight markets, including cabotage, is 1 January 2007;

2 >A proposal for a directive relatedto railway safety covering the definition of essential elements of safety systems for the infrastructure operator and railway companies. This involves developing a common approach to safety and implementing a common system in terms of delivery, content and validity of safety certificates. Finally,this proposal intends to introduce the principle of independent technical investigations, like in other sectors, in the case of accidents;

3 >A proposal for a regulation coveringthe creation of a European Rail Agency to provide technical support to the endeavors related to interoperability and safety. Its fields of activity will be, first, the development of common safety standards and the development and management of a monitoring system for safety performance and, second, the long-term management of the system to establish, register and monitor interoperability technical specifications. This Agency will play a key role by allowing harmonization endeavors for railway technical systems to progress. It will be independent, but will work in close collaboration with experts in the field. The agency will not have any decision-making powers as such, but will present proposals to the Commission;

4 >A proposal to amend Directives96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC related to interoperability which, in addition to the adaptations to the interoperability directives the abovementioned proposals address, essentially intends to ensure the coherence of the field of application between the open access network and the network subject to interoperability rules, with a progressive extension of the field of application to the entire European railway network.


This directive intends to modernize the regulatory structure in terms of safety in order for responsibilities to be clearly established and equitably distributed. Governments must appoint national safety authorities to deliver authorizations for the operations of equipment and rolling stock.

> L’Europe is the main exporting zone for our French railway system industry. It represents approximately 40% of market share, in particular with Spain, the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe, which are particularly dynamic.

> L’Asie represents close to 20% of the worldwide railway system market, with a growth potential of 4 to 6%. The many projects in China, South Korea and Thailand reinforce this market in dynamic growth. In the future, Asia will be an increasingly important client for our railway industry.

> The american continent has a massive railway infrastructure, in particular for freight. Cities in North America are very well equipped in subways and those in the South are becoming so rapidly.

> L’Afrique does not have many urban railway systems; only Cairo, Tunis and Algiers have operational subways. The rest of the infrastructures are aged and the consequences of repeated political instability on the continent prevent the completion of projects.

Therefore, the effect of the liberalization of the railway sector is that the market has become more “transparent”. Henceforth accessible to new players, so that all users may benefit from the favorable outcome of a competitive and dynamic market, rail transport must provide an increasingly standardized offer for the safety of everyone.

[ JO L 164 du 30.4.2004 ]