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Rail interoperability and standards

Rail interoperability and standards documentation and information.

The Department for Transport (DfT) works with the railway industry to ensure the rail network is safe, efficient and sustainable. Interoperability is a European initiative enabling the railway to compete more effectively with other forms of transport, particularly road transport. It can contribute to reducing costs and provide safe and uninterrupted movement of trains across Europe. It does this through establishing common checking and authorisation processes.

For updates and more information about interoperability and safety, DfT operates an email news flash service. To subscribe, please email interoperability@dft.gsi.gov.uk adding “News Flash” in the subject area.

National Vehicle Register

Under regulation 36 of RIR 2011 there are a number of requirements for a National Vehicle Register and the registration of vehicles. This register is currently managed by Network Rail as the designated registration entity. These requirements relate to the assignment of a European vehicle number and the marking of vehicles. New vehicles that are authorised to be placed into service must be recorded in the register. The register also records details of existing vehicles. More information about the NVR is available at the following:

Scope of rail interoperability

DfT’s ‘Scope of rail interoperability’ guidelines outline the scope and applicability of the interoperability regime in the UK under the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011, as amended by the Railways (Interoperability) (Amendment) Regulations 2013.

A post implementation review of the 2011 Regulations was carried out in 2016.

Our ‘Approved list of exclusions from the scope of the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011’ features information on railway networks, lines and vehicles specifically excluded from the interoperability regulations.

Help notes

Our ‘Help notes’ offer guidance on deciding whether a project is covered by the interoperability regulations. They provide advice about obtaining an authorisation or a derogation under the regulations.

Technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs)

The following pages include information about technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs). These are common, harmonised standards agreed with Europe, defining how components must be built, and compliance assessed and verified, to ensure the interoperability of the rail system. New or upgraded projects in the UK are required to comply with the relevant TSIs.

Common technical standards: notified national technical rules (NNTRs)

NNTRs can perform a number of functions, such as:

  • making a provision to deal with specific cases for particular circumstances prevailing in a member state
  • filling in where gaps have been identified in TSIs
  • setting requirements to maintain technical compatibility with existing assets that do not conform to the requirements of TSIs

They are notified to the European Commission by each EU member state and the Department for Transport has responsibility for notifying rules for the United Kingdom that are recommended by industry.

This is the latest list of the UK’s notified national technical rules for infrastructure and vehicles. The reference document database entry for Great Britain, which lists the rules relevant to obtaining vehicle authorisations categorised by various parameters, is available on the European Union Agency for Railways website. Please select “UK GB” for the national reference document (NRD).

Contacts for other organisations’ NNTRs

These contacts can supply a list of rules outside of Great Britain mainline that are under development for future notification as NNTRs:

Common technical standards: notified bodies and designated bodies

Notified bodies (NoBos) and designated bodies (DeBos) are independent bodies appointed by DfT. They are assessed as meeting certain criteria, including competence, independence and integrity under the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011.

Implementation of interoperability

The following information contains details of how rail interoperability is implemented in Great Britain. A history of rail interoperability legislation is available on the National Archives.

Background to TSI implementation plans

An important element of the strategy for rail interoperability is to create realistic and deliverable long-term implementation plans for each technical specification for interoperability (TSI). The plans will be essential to:

  • understand and set out the business case for migration towards the widespread use of rail interoperability
  • strategically plan for the development of the future rail network
Published 6 September 2013
Last updated 11 January 2018 + show all updates
  1. Multiple decision letters from 2017 added.
  2. New decision letters published.
  3. New decision letters published.
  4. Post implementation review of the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011.
  5. Decision letters on upgrade of signalling systems in the Heathrow Tunnel and onboard signalling system for new Siemens class 700 trains.
  6. NNTR, TSI catalogue, scope and interdependencies updated.
  7. Implementation plan for energy TSI, letters on the telematics applications for passengers and freight implementation plan and an update to the notified national technical rules published.
  8. New decision letters published.
  9. First published.