Operator licences & exemptions

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We issue licences and licence exemptions to railway operators.

Licensing is one of our core statutory functions. If you want to operate a train, station, network or light maintenance depot you will need to be covered by a licence or licence exemption.

Through licensing we promote effective and efficient working relationships between industry parties and safeguarding the public interest.

Background to operator licensing
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Operator licences

Licences help ensure operators are 'fit and proper' to run a railway - applicants must satisfy requirements as to good repute, professional safety competence, financial fitness and insurance cover for civil liabilities. Through licensing we promote effective and efficient working relationships between industry parties and we can hold individual operators to account in the public interest.

European licences

The Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005 require most people who want to operate passenger trains or freight trains in Great Britain to hold an appropriate European licence. We can issue these licences following a statutory consultation process and in principle they are valid in any EEA state.

We grant two types of European licence:

  • European passenger licence: Authorises a railway company to run passenger trains. This type of licence is typically held by passenger train operators who run on the mainline.
  • European freight licence: Authorises a railway company to run freight trains. This type of licence is typically held by freight train operators who run on the mainline.

Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRP)

A European licence holder operating in GB must also have and comply with a Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (an SNRP) that we issue. We use the conditions in an SNRP to bring consistency with operators granted a Railways Act licence and to promote effective and efficient working relationships between industry parties. For example, conditions can bind operators into common arrangements and standards for ticketing, complaints handling, disability policies and passenger information that we can enforce.

Railways Act 1993 - licences

Section 6 of the Railways Act 1993 makes it an offence to act as the operator of a railway asset without holding a Railways Act licence or licence exemption. These licences cover some operations not covered by the 2005 Regulations.

This applies to all railway asset operators regardless of the scale of operations and includes operators of privately owned freight terminals and other minor networks. Railway assets are trains, networks, stations and light maintenance depots. An operator is "the person having management of that railway asset for the time being".

Railways Act licences are issued on the same criteria as European licences. However, the conditions are in the licence itself rather than in a separate SNRP.

Types of licences

There are five different Railways Act licences, one for each category of railway asset:

  • Network licence: Authorises a person to be the operator of a network, and trains being used on a network for any purpose comprised in the operation of the network.
  • Passenger train licence: Authorises a person to be the operator of a train being used on a network for the purpose of carrying passengers by railway.
  • Non-passenger train licence: Authorises a person to be the operator of other trains being used on a network. This is the type of licence held by some rail maintenance and renewal companies.
  • Station licence: Authorises a person to operate one or more specified stations.
  • Light maintenance depot licence: Authorises a person to operate one or more specified light maintenance depots.

Further information

Operators of railway assets must normally comply with conditions in their licences and the Statement of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRPs)

Information aimed at train and station operators about having policies and practices in place that protect the interests of older and disabled passengers.

This webpage provides information on complaints handling procedures aimed at train and station operators and could also be of interest to passengers.

Operators must comply with our third party liability insurance requirements. Operators’ insurance brokers should send us confirmation that adequate insurance cover is in place, in line with our general approval.

How to apply for a licence or licence exemption, costs involved and application forms.
 

The current standard versions of Model licences and Statements of National Regulatory Provisions (SNRPs) in use.

The licence exemptions in use in the Great Britain rail industry.
 

Electronic versions of licences which are in force, listed by company.

Licence exemptions exempt named operators from the requirement to hold a licence.

Details proposals to grant licences or licence exemptions on which we are consulting.