Achieving Europe-wide safety through technical harmonization
Technical and operational harmonization is beyond liberalization one of the key elements of the EU transport policy for the railway market. The main legal basis are the European Interoperability Directives and the Railway Safety Directive which regulate the certification and authorization processes for Railway Systems.
Mandatory Technical Specification for Interoperability that are elaborated by working groups of the European Railway Agency (ERA) define for the different subsystems (Infrastructure, Rolling Stock etc.) harmonized criteria or refer to European Standards, which become hereby also binding. The system of TSI follows a modular approach. A new locomotive has for example to fulfilll the relevant requirements of the TSI Rolling Stock, Control Command and Signalling, Persons with reduced mobility, Safety in Railway Tunnels, Operation and Noise. Future innovations should not be blocked by TSI. Due to this only those requirements should be regulated in TSI that are absolutely necessary for interoperability. The harmonization by voluntary European Standards which are listed in a TSI Application Guide support mutual acceptance in the same way but has the advantage of more flexibility in case of new technical solutions and complete the picture of necessary European harmonization.
The requirements in the TSI are checked by so called Notified Bodies. The result has to be accepted in the whole European Union and can without good reasons not be questioned on national level. This means that here we have a “European level of safety”. But as long as not all requirements are harmonized and the interface to the national infrastructures need to be considered, an additional authorization for placing into service by the National Safety Authority of the Member States, in which the subsystem is placed into service, is necessary. This authorization include additional national requirements that are not harmonized and the check of the coherency between the different subsystems, i. E. between a Rolling Stock and the Infrastructure. To avoid discrimination, the Member States are obliged to notify these National Safety Rules to the European commission in order to be published in the Internet. The future tool is the European Database NOTIF for the notification of national railway safety and technical rules. In this respect NOTIF is, as an intermediate step, the basis for ensuring transparency regarding those regulations that are still not harmonized.
Up to now the TSI are related to the Trans European Network. With the new Interoperability Directive it is foreseen to widen the scope. Due to this it has to be decided whether new systems, i. E. new category of Rolling Stock and Lines need to be considered.
Safety can only be achieved, if all relevant risks can be handled by specific measures and as long as we have no common European Railway Infrastructure the Network specific aspects play an important role.
Cross Acceptance of Authorizations that are offered by the National Safety Authorities is one major element of the new “Interoperability Directive” of the European Union. Those requirements, that are not yet harmonized in TSI have to be classified against the national requirements of other Member States in A (cross - accepted), B and C (not cross accepted) - parameters. The result need to be fixed in a cross reference document which includes all relevant parameters as a basis for future international Rolling Stock projects. It is possible that this process in the future lead to harmonized requirements on a European level but it is nevertheless an important intermediate step because it leads to "harmonization" on bi- and multilateral levels.
Safety includes technical and process - oriented aspects. Beyond the authorization for placing into service by the responsible National Safety Authority, the Railway Undertakings (RU) and Infrastructure Manager (IM) are obliged by the European Safety Directive to implement a Safety Management System (SMS) based on common requirements, which include, among others, processes with which the RU and IM ensure that they control all risks of railway operation, including purchase of new material. In order to fulfill this RU and IM have for example for the concrete network access to check, that the specific Rolling Stock is compatible with the Infrastructure on which it is foreseen to be operated. Hereby the RU and IM identify for example the necessary Control Command and Signalling System. Only with this second step a safe integration can be ensured.
The European Common Safety Methods (CSM) on Risk evaluation and assessment, which have to be applied since 19.07.2010 according to a European Regulation enforce the sector to follow a structured process which include especially the identification and classification of possible hazards. The CSM also regulate the selection of one of the three known risk acceptance principles: Code of Practice, Reference System or Explicit Risk Analysis and based on the results the decision about the necessary safety measures to proof that all possible Hazards are controlled. The result has to be documented in a hazard log and assessed by an independent safety assessor. The CSM also foresees a permanent Hazard Management. With the implementation of this transparent and structured process cross acceptance of subsystems like for example Rolling Stock shall be supported. Everybody speaks “the same language”; a code of practice is for example identified in the same manner in all EU - Member States.