This guidance explains how leaving the EU without a deal would affect:

  • rail safety rules
  • technical standards
  • authorisations and certificates
  • train driver licences

For rail specifically, as set out in the government’s recent White paper on the future economic partnership, we are seeking bilateral arrangements with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as Ireland, to facilitate the continued smooth functioning of cross-border rail services.

Beyond those cross-border services, we will have the flexibility to shape our own domestic railway legislation to meet the needs of our passengers and freight shippers, and reflect the unique characteristics of the rail network within the UK.

In any scenario, most of our services are domestic, so much will continue as it always has in practice. Above all, the UK’s exit from the EU will not affect rail safety, which will remain the number one priority.

As with all of our EU exit work so far, we remain committed to working closely with the industry and other stakeholders. This is an essential part of planning for all eventualities.

There are a number of cross-cutting issues, such as goods in the supply chain, and we know from our engagement with industry that these issues are of particular importance to them. This notice should be read in conjunction with:

This notice is not designed to cover border infrastructure or checks.

Before 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020)

Most of the rules on technical standards, interoperability and safety are contained in EU law. No matter the scenario we remain committed to sharing best practice with our European partners to ensure that safety continues to improve across the EU rail network, particularly given our proud record as one of the safest railways in Europe.

In order to run either a domestic or cross-border service legally, rail undertakings (i.e. the train operators) must obtain the correct licences, certificates and authorisations from an EU rail regulator and in certain cases from the safety authority in an EU country.

In the UK the safety authority is the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), or the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, or the Intergovernmental Commission for the Channel Tunnel.

For safety purposes the railway operator must obtain a safety certificate and train drivers must be licensed. Applicants seeking to use vehicles for the first time must also obtain an authorisation from the safety authority.

Certification of conformity by assessment bodies is required under the EU’s Interoperability Regime. This includes certificates of verification for subsystems and certificates of conformity for interoperability constituents that are defined in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability.

After March 2019 if there’s no deal

If there’s no deal, we would still be able to pursue bilateral agreements with EU countries to maintain cross-border services. We are also seeking mutual recognition of all necessary documentation so that operators from the UK and the EU can continue to operate cross-border services without disruption after exit. Given the large amount of trade and citizens travelling on these services it is everyone’s interests to continue such arrangements. Passengers using cross-border services are responsible for ensuring that their insurance and ticket terms and conditions are sufficient to cover possible disruption.

Through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 we will bring EU law onto the UK statute book on exit day. The act, and some minor amendments we are making to the retained legislation, will ensure that the statute book works effectively after exit day.

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.

For the vast majority of domestic passenger and freight services currently operating in either the UK or the EU, operators tend to establish subsidiaries in the relevant country.

They rely on documentation issued there under EU law. It is possible to rely on documentation issued in one EU country when operating in another. However, a technical notice issued by the European Commission indicates that if there is no deal – certificates and licences issued by ORR (Britain’s national safety authority) to operators currently running train services in the EU would not be valid there after exit.

We want to provide businesses with greater clarity and certainty and are therefore proposing to recognise certain documentation, such as safety certificates, and train driver licences, issued by another EU country for a limited period after exit day if there’s no deal.

The sections of this notice relating to interoperability constituents and vehicle authorisations should be read in conjunction with the technical notice on Trading goods regulated under the ‘New Approach’ if there’s no Brexit deal. This sets out general principles for the recognition of EU goods documentation for a time-limited period. The implications will be covered later in this notice.

The technical specifications for interoperability and the safety regime have been developed by the EU Agency for Railways (EUAR) in conjunction with EU countries and stakeholders. As new rules and standards are developed by the EU after exit, as a third country, the UK will have the flexibility to align with or diverge from these as it wishes. 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 European Union Agency for Railways (EUAR) if there’s no deal. However, we encourage UK industry to participate with EUAR at technical and working level.

Arrangements for cross-border services will be subject to any bilateral arrangements that the UK negotiates with individual EU countries.

In the absence of any bilateral or multilateral arrangements between the UK and relevant EU countries before March 2019, cross-border operators would be subject to the same recognition principles in relation to certificates and licences covered in this notice.

What you need to do

Safety certificates

For UK-based operators who only operate domestically and have ORR-issued Part A and Part B safety certificates, your certificates would remain valid if there’s no deal.

Any non-UK based operators operating a domestic-only service in GB with a Part A safety certificate issued in another EU country, would be able to continue using these certificates for up to 2 years from 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. However, you would not be required to be established in the UK.

ORR-issued Part B safety certificates would 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 which case the associated ORR-issued Part B certificate would also need to be renewed at the same time.

The Commission’s notice indicates that if there’s no deal, UK-based operators running domestic services in another EU country who hold a Part A safety certificate issued by the ORR 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.

In order to ensure certainty, we encourage those who need to re-apply for a Part A safety certificate to begin this process as soon as possible.

Arrangements for cross-border services would be subject to any bilateral arrangements that the UK negotiates with individual EU countries.

Entities in charge of maintenance certificates

For Entities in Charge of Maintenance (ECM) that hold an ECM certificate issued in the UK by the ORR or a recognised body, if there’s no deal their validity would be unchanged for freight vehicles operating purely on the UK mainline.

ECMs that hold a certificate issued in another country would be able to continue using these certificates for UK operations. These certificates would be recognised indefinitely as required by our international obligations under COTIF.

The Commission’s notice indicates that ECMs that hold a certificate issued in the UK by the ORR or a recognised body, and maintain freight vehicles in the EU, would need to apply for a new ECM certificate from a national safety authority in an EU country. The UK’s position is that the EU and UK recognition of the certification of ECMs after exit must be consistent with our international obligations under COTIF.

Interoperability constituents

In the UK, interoperability constituents with certificates of conformity from an EU notified body would continue to be recognised after exit 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 would be required by a UK conformity assessment body. The same principle would apply to certificates of verification for subsystems.

The Commission’s notice indicates that if there’s no deal, an interoperability constituent placed on the EU market before exit with a certificate of conformity from a UK notified body could still be used for the period of validity of that certificate in subsystems or vehicles authorised before exit day. Certification from a UK notified body would not be valid for interoperability constituents placed on the EU market after EU exit.

Vehicle authorisations

In the event of a no deal exit, vehicle authorisations already issued within the UK before exit would retain their validity in the UK.

An additional authorisation to place into service would be mandatory for vehicles for first use in the UK after exit, if those vehicles were first authorised outside of the UK. This system would be operated in accordance with the UK’s COTIF international obligations. We do not envisage this requirement to 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 Commission’s notice indicates 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.

Train driving licences

For operators in the UK, operating with licences and certificates issued in the UK, there would be no impact if there’s no deal.

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

If you currently drive trains into an EU country on a UK licence, you would 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 this as soon as possible.

Arrangements for operators of cross-border services would be subject to any bilateral arrangements that the UK negotiates with individual EU countries.

More information

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The department would like to thank all our stakeholders for all their engagement and input to date. We value the rail supply chain in the UK and we will continue to work closely with them and all our industry stakeholder regarding the appropriate preparations.

We will publish more information in the coming months. We aim to give businesses and individuals as much certainty as possible as soon as we can, and to ensure that any new requirements are not unduly burdensome.

This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.

It is part of the government’s on-going programme of planning for all possible outcomes. We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU.

The UK government is clear that in this scenario we must respect our unique relationship with Ireland, with whom we share a land border and who are co-signatories of the Belfast Agreement. The UK government has consistently placed upholding the Agreement and its successors at the heart of our approach. It enshrines the consent principle on which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status rests. We recognise the basis it has provided for the deep economic and social cooperation on the island of Ireland. This includes North-South cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which we’re committed to protecting in line with the letter and spirit of Strand two of the Agreement.

The Irish government have indicated they would need to discuss arrangements in the event of no deal with the European Commission and EU countries. The UK would stand ready in this scenario to engage constructively to meet our commitments and act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, recognising the very significant challenges that the lack of a UK-EU legal agreement would pose in this unique and highly sensitive context.

It remains, though, the responsibility of the UK government, as the sovereign government in Northern Ireland, to continue preparations for the full range of potential outcomes, including no deal. As we do, and as decisions are made, we’ll take full account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area and participate in other EU arrangements. As such, in many areas, these countries adopt EU rules. Where this is the case, these technical notices may also apply to them, and EEA businesses and citizens should consider whether they need to take any steps to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario.

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