Guidance

Rail transport, safety and technical standards if there's no Brexit deal

How leaving the EU without a deal will affect rail safety and technical standards, travelling by train and running a rail service.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need different documentation to run or work on cross-border and domestic UK rail services.

Agreements for cross-border rail services

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, bilateral arrangements regarding cross-border rail services will be pursued to secure them for the long term.

We have already made considerable progress supporting rail operators to take their own steps to ensure that they are able to continue cross-border rail services. These steps are now substantially in place.

In the absence of any bilateral or multilateral arrangements, cross-border operators would be subject to the same recognition principles in the UK in relation to EU issued operator licences, safety certificates and train driver licences as outlined in this notice.

Legislation and conventions for cross-border rail services

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will bring EU law onto the UK statute book on EU Exit day. Our rail EU Exit legislative programme also ensures that the statute book will continue to function effectively after EU Exit day, thereby providing certainty, including in critical fields such as rail safety.

We would also continue to meet our obligations as a member of the Convention concerning international carriage by rail (COTIF) in all scenarios. COTIF establishes uniform rules that govern international rail transport. The EU and the UK are parties to COTIF and these uniform rules.

Recognition of documentation

We are seeking mutual recognition of all documentation so that operators from the UK and the EU can continue to run cross-border rail services without disruption after EU Exit.

The European Commission’s technical notice on rail transport says that certificates and licences issued by the UK’s national safety and licensing authority, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), will not be valid in the EU if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

However, to help secure the continuation of cross-border services between the UK and France and the UK and Ireland, the EU has adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/503 (PDF, 395KB) on certain aspects of railway safety and connectivity. This gives a temporary 9-month extension to the validity of documents needed to run rail services.

This means that UK-issued operator licences, authorisations, safety certificates and train driver licences will continue to be valid in the cross-border area (Calais-Fréthun in France and Dundalk in Ireland) for 9 months from the date of EU Exit. The government fully supports this measure and expects all rail operators to meet the requirements set out in the Regulation.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK will recognise certain EU-issued documentation for a limited period after EU Exit day. This includes operator licences, safety certificates, and train driving licences.

EU-operators will need to apply to the ORR for UK documentation to run services in the UK. This should have minimal impact on business and it will be a straightforward application process. EU operators need to prepare and allow enough time to apply for this documentation.

Participation in the EU Agency for Railways

The EU Agency for Railways (EUAR) works with EU countries and stakeholders to develop technical specifications for interoperability and the safety regime.

After the UK leaves the EU, the UK will have the flexibility to align with or diverge from new rules and standards developed by the EUAR. We will only diverge where there are clear arguments for doing so and after fully engaging with industry to assess the impact - particularly the commercial and cost impact to industry.

To enable this flexibility, we do not intend to seek formal participation in the EUAR if there’s no EU Exit deal. We do, however, encourage the UK rail industry to work with EUAR at technical and working levels.

Rail passenger rights

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rights for UK passengers on both domestic and cross-border rail services will not change.

Passengers using cross-border services must ensure that their insurance and ticket terms and conditions cover possible disruption.

Operator licences

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no impact on UK-based domestic operators using ORR-issued licences. This includes subsidiaries of EU and non-EU owned operators using ORR-issued licences.

Under (The Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) licences issued by an EU country will be valid for operators in the UK for up to 2 years from EU Exit day. At this point you will need to apply to the ORR for a UK-licence to continue operating. You do not need to be established in the UK to do this.

The European Commission (EC) has said that operators who hold an ORR-issued licence and run domestic services in the EU will need to re-apply for an operator licence in an EU country. This also applies to UK-based operators seeking to run new domestic services in an EU country.

If you need to re-apply for an operator licence you should do so as soon as possible.

Safety certificates

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, ORR-issued Part A and Part B safety certificates will still be valid for UK-based operators who only operate domestically.

Non-UK based operators running a domestic-only service in the UK with a Part A safety certificate issued in the EU, can continue using these certificates for up to 2 years from EU Exit or until they expire - whichever is earlier. At this point you would need to apply to the ORR for a UK Part A certificate and renew the UK Part B safety certificates to continue operating. You do not need to be established in the UK to do this.

The Rail Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 is the first of 2 instruments affecting the required changes to the safety regime. The next piece of legislation will provide for the time-limited recognition. In the interim, the status quo has been retained.

Further information can be found in the explanatory memorandum to the Regulations.

The UK will continue to recognise safety certificates issued in Northern Ireland on an ongoing basis.

ORR-issued Part B safety certificates will be valid until they expire and will not be subject to a time-limited period. The exception to this is where a Part A certificate issued in an EU country expires or is subject to the 2-year limit. In this case, the associated ORR-issued Part B certificate needs to be renewed at the same time.

The EC has said that if there’s no exit deal, UK-based operators running domestic services in the EU who hold an ORR-issued Part A safety certificate would need to re-apply for a Part A safety certificate in an EU country. This also applies to UK-based operators seeking to run new domestic services in an EU country.

If you need to re-apply for a Part A safety certificate you should do so as soon as possible.

Entities in charge of maintenance certificates

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the validity of entities in charge of maintenance (ECM) certificates issued in the UK by the ORR or a certification body will be unchanged for freight vehicles running purely on the UK mainline.

ECMs that hold a certificate issued in another country can continue using these certificates for UK operations. The UK recognises these certificates through our international obligations under COTIF.

The EC has said that ECMs who maintain freight vehicles in the EU and who hold a certificate issued in the UK by the ORR or a recognised body will need to apply for a new ECM certificate from a certification body in an EU country.

We encourage stakeholders to ensure their ECMs have certificates issued in the EU.

Train driving licences

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no impact for operators in the UK using licences and certificates issued in the UK.

For operators in the UK, drivers using licences and certificates issued in the EU will be able to continue using this documentation for up to 2 years from EU Exit day or until they expire, whichever is earlier. At this point drivers working for a UK operator must apply to the ORR for a UK licence to continue operating in the UK.

The validity of certificates in the UK is unaffected by changes to the licence, however, operators must ensure that certificates held by newly re-licensed drivers and their registers of those certificates refer to the new licence. This is legislated in The Train Driving Licences and Certificates (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The UK will continue to recognise driving licences and certificates issued in Northern Ireland on an ongoing basis.

If you currently drive trains into an EU country on a UK licence, you will need a new EU licence and certification documents from the national safety authority of the country you wish to drive into. You should apply for these as soon as possible.

Interoperability constituents

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK will continue to recognise interoperability constituents with certificates of conformity from an EU notified body unless the applicable UK technical standards diverge from the standards set by the EU.

Where there is divergence in respect of a specific interoperability constituent, a reassessment against the divergent standard is required by a UK conformity assessment body. The same principle applies to certificates of verification for subsystems.

The EC has said that an interoperability constituent placed on the EU market before EU Exit with a certificate of conformity from a UK notified body can be used for the period of validity of that certificate in subsystems or vehicles authorised before EU Exit day. Certification from a UK notified body will not be valid for interoperability constituents placed on the EU market after EU Exit.

See also:

Vehicle authorisations

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, vehicle authorisations already issued within the UK before EU Exit will retain their validity in the UK.

If vehicles were first authorised outside of the UK, an added authorisation to place into service will be mandatory for the first use of vehicles in the UK after EU Exit. This system will be operated in accordance with the UK’s COTIF international obligations. This requirement should not cause disruption as it is effectively formalising current practice. Additional vehicle authorisation is generally always sought to ensure compliance with the UK’s non-harmonised technical rules.

The EC has said that vehicle authorisations delivered in the EU prior to EU Exit would remain valid. After the withdrawal date, authorisations for placing in service in the EU would be based on certificates of verification issued by notified bodies in the EU countries.

Rail freight corridor

A rail freight corridor (RFC) is constituted of railway lines, linking 2 or more terminals along a predefined principal route crossing more than one EU country. For each RFC, a dedicated governance structure is set up. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK will no longer be a member of the North Sea - Mediterranean rail freight corridor. The impact of this will be minimal as the corridor has only ever been used once in the UK.

Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland

In many areas, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland adopt EU rules. Where this is the case, this technical notice may also apply to them, and businesses and citizens in EEA and Switzerland should consider whether they need to take any steps to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario.

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Published 30 May 2019