The first 10 years of the European Railway Agency (ERA, the Agency) have been a success: railways in the EU are becoming safer, technical barriers between countries are gradually taken down. Since its creation, the Agency has consistently pursued its vision ‘to make the railway system work better for society’.
ERA's mission is to contribute to the creation of an integrated European railway area where railway undertakings can run trains and organise their transport services freely, safely, effectively, and without interruption, allowing the rail transport sector to grow to the good of society, economy and the environment.
Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission, responsible for transport, says, "ERA can build on its strong reputation and, with the 4th railway package adopted, will become a truly European rail authority."
While EU citizens enjoy one of the safest rail sectors in the world, Europe is still home to more than 2,000 significant accidents each year. Last year saw the EU’s worst railway accident for 15 years, outside Santiago de Compostela in Spain: 79 killed, and more than 100 injured. It was exactly the kind of accident that the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS control system) is designed to prevent. Its EU-wide implementation to guarantee a common standard and enhance safety is one of ERA's key projects.
Located in France (Lille and Valenciennes), ERA has in the past 10 years worked with the EU institutions, national railway authorities and numerous stakeholders to prepare technical recommendations to the European Commission. These recommendations are subsequently transformed into EU law applicable directly in the European Union.
ERA offers all interested parties – railway operators, infrastructure managers, manufacturers of railway rolling stock and equipment, passengers' and workers' organisations, national regulators, safety authorities and accident investigating bodies –the opportunity to meet and share their experiences, contributing to the better functioning of the European railways.
ERA will see a major increase in its competences once the legislative procedure for the 4th Railway Package is finished. The 4th Railway Package gives ERA thepower to issue EU-wide authorisations for railway vehicles and safety certificates for railway operators. This should cut the administrative costs of rail companies and facilitate the entrance of new operators into the market. According to the Commission, the new procedures coupled with the increased role of ERA should lead to a saving for companies of €500 million by 2025.