Interoperability of the rail system within the EU

Table of Contents:

Interoperability of the rail system within the EU

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Interoperability of the rail system within the EU


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Regional policy > Management of regional policy > Trans-european networks

Interoperability of the rail system within the EU

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2008/57/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the interoperability of the rail system within the Community (Text with EEA relevance).


This directive establishes the conditions to be fulfilled to achieve interoperability * within the EU rail system at the design, construction, placing into service, upgrading, renewal, operation and maintenance stages. Its provisions comply with Directive 2004/45/EC on railway safety and the health and safety of workers.

The gradual implementation of interoperability of the rail system is pursued through the harmonisation of technical standards. Thus this directive covers:

  • essential requirements with regard to safety, reliability, human health, environmental protection, technical compatibility and operation of the system (Annex III);
  • the technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs) adopted for each subsystem or part of subsystem pursuant to this directive;
  • the corresponding European specifications.

The railway network * is broken down into subsystems of a structural nature (energy, control-command and signalling, rolling stock) or functional (operation and traffic management, maintenance and telematics applications). European Union (EU) countries may request that the Commission grant derogations and the Commission may decide to exclude certain measures from the scope of the directive for specific cases and for a set period *.

TSI projects shall be prepared by the European railway agency which will examine the subsystems in consultation with associations and the social partners. Next, the projects shall be submitted to the European Commission which will modify and adopt them, having regard to the right of scrutiny of the Parliament.

Interoperability constituents
* shall be subject to European specifications (such as European standards). They shall be subject to the procedure for “EC” declaration of conformity or suitability for use.

Authorisations for placing in service of vehicles shall be granted by the national safety authorities responsible for each network.


This Directive is a recast of Directive 2001/16/EC applicable to the conventional rail system and Directive 96/48/EC on the trans-European high-speed rail system.

The pursuit of technical harmonisation aims at developing transport services in the EU and with third countries. It facilitates the integration of the market in equipment and services for the construction, renewal and operation of the rail system.

Key terms used in the Act
  • Interoperability: the ability of a rail system to allow the safe and uninterrupted movement of trains which accomplish the required levels of performance for these lines. This ability depends on all the regulatory, technical and operational conditions which must be met in order to satisfy the essential requirements.
  • Network: the lines, stations, terminals, and all kinds of fixed equipment needed to ensure safe and continuous operation of the rail system.
  • Specific case: any part of the rail system which needs special provisions in the TSIs (temporary or definitive) because of geographical, topographical or urban environment constraints or those affecting compatibility with the existing system. This may include in particular railway lines and networks isolated from the rest of the Community, the loading gauge, the track gauge or space between the tracks and vehicles strictly intended for local, regional or historical use, as well as vehicles originating from or destined for third countries.
  • Interoperability constituents: any elementary component, group of components, subassembly or complete assembly of equipment incorporated or intended to be incorporated into a subsystem. The concept covers both tangible objects and intangible objects (such as software).


Act Entry into force Transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2008/57/EC



OJ L 191 of 18.7.2008

Subsequent amendments and corrections to Directive 2008/57/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

Related Acts

Commission Regulation (EU) No 201/2011 of 1 March 2011 on the model of declaration of conformity to an authorised type of railway vehicle [Official Journal L 57 of 2.3.2011].

Commission Decision 2009/107/EC of 23 January 2009 amending Decisions 2006/861/EC and 2006/920/EC concerning technical specifications of interoperability relating to subsystems of the trans-European conventional rail system [notified under number C(2009) 38] (Text with EEA relevance) [Official Journal L 45 of 14.2.2009].

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