The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) was set up to develop procedures within the framework of railway safety and interoperability.
It is responsible for contributing to the implementation of European Community legislation aimed at supporting a competitive, open market for rail. This is done in two ways:
- By enhancing the level of interoperability of railway systems; and
- By developing a common approach to safety on the European railway system.
The Agency does this by issuing recommendations and opinions to the European Commission and, in the case of opinions, to Member States. The Agency liaises with member state National Safety Authorities (NSAs), including holding 4 network meetings a year, and organises topic specific working groups, to form these recommendations.
As an NSA, ORR has a duty to authorise, and in the case of rolling stock keep a register of, new and changed components of the railway, ensuring relevant technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs) are met. We are also required to develop a safety regulatory framework, including a system of national safety rules, and to produce an annual safety report to ERA.
Cross-audit of ORR
We have been audited by other National Safety Authorities and ERA as part of the pilot phase of the European cross-audit programme. The purpose of the cross audit was to evaluate the delivery of our responsibilities under the European safety and interoperability directives and to find examples of best practice or difficulties in applying the requirements. The final report, published in January 2013, included a number of recommendations made by the audit team. Our response is summarised in the improvement plan.
ERA acts as an information centre for the development of safety on the railways. It holds a public database of relevant documents and every two years publishes a report on the development of railway safety. It will support the national bodies in their cooperation to further harmonise NSA decision-making principles and investigation methods.
ERA works closely with all the stakeholders of the rail sector to develop its proposals. Working groups have been established to allow for a wide consensus on the new approaches to be reached.
The aim of all these activities is to contribute to the creation of an integrated European railway where the rail transport mode can realise its inherent competitive advantages.
ORR participates in the International Liaison Group of Government Railway Inspectors (ILGGRI). Established in 1997, ILGGRI provides an informal platform for contact between European railway inspectorates and their representatives.