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Central role for NoBos in European competition policy

Posted: 18 February 2013 | | No comments yet

Encouraging competition is at the heart of the European Commission’s vision for the continent’s railways. The theory goes that competition between operators will improve customer service, lead to better financial outcomes and result in modal shift to the railways, bringing about benefits such as reduced road congestion and reductions in carbon emissions.

The Commission looks at the road and air sectors and seeks to draw lessons from the way competition works in them. A lorry can travel from Rotterdam to Rome, or an aircraft can fly from Stansted to Stuttgart, with little regard for borders. Road vehicles and aircraft can cross borders easily, with the road or airway much the same on one side as on the other. Competing haulage firms or airlines can come in and seek to win traffic with few entry barriers.

This is the model that has driven the Commission’s railway policy. Thus, European Directive 91/440 requires a formal separation of activities of railway operation and management of infrastructure through separate accounts. The idea is to have the railway infrastructure managed more like a motorway or an airport, with the infrastructure manager charging competing operators to use the railway in the same way an airport owner charges airlines. This vertical separation has not been without controversy: Critics point out that in North America, where wheel and rail are in the same hands, rail freight has grown much faster than it has in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Commission regards vertical separation as a key policy for taming the power of monolithic state railways and encouraging new entrants into the industry. Making infrastructure management separate from the operations means new entrants can get a price for a path on the railway and compete with the incumbent operator.

Other directives have built on the founda – tions laid by 91/440. One problem the railway has by comparison with the air and road sectors is that technical specifications vary widely across the European Union.

A lorry from Poznań in Poland can drive on the road and observe traffic signals in Peterborough in the UK, while an aircraft taking off from Paris in France is equipped to land safely in Pisa in Italy. Not so with the railways. A multiplicity of operating rules and different types of equipment are spread across Europe and historically it has been difficult to cross borders. Often, locomotive changes are required for a train to be able to proceed into another country, with only certain loco types compatible with national signalling systems.

Encouraging competition is at the heart of the European Commission’s vision for the continent’s railways. The theory goes that competition between operators will improve customer service, lead to better financial outcomes and result in modal shift to the railways, bringing about benefits such as reduced road congestion and reductions in carbon emissions. The Commission looks at the road and air sectors and seeks to draw lessons from the way competition works in them. A lorry can travel from Rotterdam to Rome, or an aircraft can fly from Stansted to Stuttgart, with little regard for borders. Road vehicles and aircraft can cross borders easily, with the road or airway much the same on one side as on the other. Competing haulage firms or airlines can come in and seek to win traffic with few entry barriers. This is the model that has driven the Commission’s railway policy. Thus, European Directive 91/440 requires a formal separation of activities of railway operation and management of infrastructure through separate accounts. The idea is to have the railway infrastructure managed more like a motorway or an airport, with the infrastructure manager charging competing operators to use the railway in the same way an airport owner charges airlines. This vertical separation has not been without controversy: Critics point out that in North America, where wheel and rail are in the same hands, rail freight has grown much faster than it has in Europe. Nevertheless, the Commission regards vertical separation as a key policy for taming the power of monolithic state railways and encouraging new entrants into the industry. Making infrastructure management separate from the operations means new entrants can get a price for a path on the railway and compete with the incumbent operator. Other directives have built on the founda - tions laid by 91/440. One problem the railway has by comparison with the air and road sectors is that technical specifications vary widely across the European Union. A lorry from Poznań in Poland can drive on the road and observe traffic signals in Peterborough in the UK, while an aircraft taking off from Paris in France is equipped to land safely in Pisa in Italy. Not so with the railways. A multiplicity of operating rules and different types of equipment are spread across Europe and historically it has been difficult to cross borders. Often, locomotive changes are required for a train to be able to proceed into another country, with only certain loco types compatible with national signalling systems.

Encouraging competition is at the heart of the European Commission’s vision for the continent’s railways. The theory goes that competition between operators will improve customer service, lead to better financial outcomes and result in modal shift to the railways, bringing about benefits such as reduced road congestion and reductions in carbon emissions.

The Commission looks at the road and air sectors and seeks to draw lessons from the way competition works in them. A lorry can travel from Rotterdam to Rome, or an aircraft can fly from Stansted to Stuttgart, with little regard for borders. Road vehicles and aircraft can cross borders easily, with the road or airway much the same on one side as on the other. Competing haulage firms or airlines can come in and seek to win traffic with few entry barriers.

This is the model that has driven the Commission’s railway policy. Thus, European Directive 91/440 requires a formal separation of activities of railway operation and management of infrastructure through separate accounts. The idea is to have the railway infrastructure managed more like a motorway or an airport, with the infrastructure manager charging competing operators to use the railway in the same way an airport owner charges airlines. This vertical separation has not been without controversy: Critics point out that in North America, where wheel and rail are in the same hands, rail freight has grown much faster than it has in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Commission regards vertical separation as a key policy for taming the power of monolithic state railways and encouraging new entrants into the industry. Making infrastructure management separate from the operations means new entrants can get a price for a path on the railway and compete with the incumbent operator.

Other directives have built on the founda – tions laid by 91/440. One problem the railway has by comparison with the air and road sectors is that technical specifications vary widely across the European Union.

A lorry from Poznań in Poland can drive on the road and observe traffic signals in Peterborough in the UK, while an aircraft taking off from Paris in France is equipped to land safely in Pisa in Italy. Not so with the railways. A multiplicity of operating rules and different types of equipment are spread across Europe and historically it has been difficult to cross borders. Often, locomotive changes are required for a train to be able to proceed into another country, with only certain loco types compatible with national signalling systems.

Accordingly, the Commission has tried to promote technical harmonisation so that crossing a national border is as seamless on the railways as it is on the roads and in the air. The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a central plank of this policy – the idea is that there should be a standard signalling system for Europe.

Supporting the harmonisation policy are the Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC (amended by Directive 2008/110/EC) and the Railway Interoperability Directive 2008/57/EC.

Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI)

Directive 2008/57/EC determines that the technical requirements for the interoperability of the high-speed and conventional rail system are defined by documents called the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI). These key documents are arranged either by structural sub-systems (like energy, infrastructure, rolling stock, and control, command and signalling) or by common areas of application, which include more than one sub-system (like Persons of Reduced Mobility (PRM), safety in railway tunnels or noise).

TSIs were first introduced for new highspeed lines but have since been extended to conventional railways. For example in the UK, the requirement that by a certain date all rolling stock should be compliant with TSI PRM is kick-starting a massive programme of train refurbishment in which existing units are being fitted with toilets suitable for the disabled, easily visible handrails, control buttons at a convenient height for wheelchair users, and so on.

TSIs contain all the elements which are necessary to evaluate, assess and finally certify the conformity of railway products and subsystems with the requirements. To ensure these products and sub-systems meet the require – ments, the concept of Notified Bodies (NoBos) has been introduced – these are consultants qualified to certify products as complying with the TSIs. Notified Bodies are appointed by members of the European Union to carry out conformity assessments against European Directive 2008/57. The remainder of this article considers examples of work undertaken by NoBos.

Lloyd’s Register Rail

The West Coast Main Line in the UK is recognised as a priority Trans-European Network (TEN) route. Besides linking major population centres in Britain, it forms part of a rail route from the continental mainland to Ireland, on the western periphery of the EU, via a shipping link from Holyhead in Wales.

Lloyd’s Register Rail acted as the NoBo for 11 of the large infrastructure renewal projects that constituted the West Coast Main Line upgrade that was completed in 2008. The firm’s appointment included assessment against several of the TSIs defined by the High Speed directive.

Lloyd’s Register Rail has undertaken similar work in the Netherlands, certifying 80km of new 300km/h rail infrastructure for the Dutch High Speed Line South (HSL) against the High Speed directive. This new line links Amsterdam to Belgium and includes 170 bridges and viaducts, and several tunnels.

Walenberg Rail Assessment

Walenberg Rail Assessment has been involved in many evaluation, assessment and certification projects in the past and also in a number of important European studies. The firm was involved in the evaluation of the first set of highspeed TSIs for the European Commission.

Much of the firm’s work concerns ERTMS and its associated signalling system, the European Train Control System (ETCS). For example, Walenberg has undertaken assessments of ETCS on-board assemblies for application on the Dutch BetuweRoute freight line and the Havenspoorlijn. The firm worked on coordination of assessment and certification for the Dutch High Speed line, HSL-South.

Walenberg has given support to the Latvian and Estonian Governments for the introduction of European legislation, European railway standards and conformity assessment. It has undertaken audits and peer reviews in Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia to check the progress in the application of European railway legislation.

Walenberg Rail Assessment is recognised by the French Notified Body organisation CERTIFER as co-ordinator/evaluator in the area of applica – tion of signalling systems, information systems, electronic on-board safety systems, information and electronic way side safety systems, funct – ional safety, safety assessment processes and architecture of electronic safety systems.

WSP

WSP is a large engineering consultancy. One recent project has included contributing to a study undertaken into the feasibility of establishing a network of new high-speed railways in southern Norway. WSP contributed expertise in the area of railway specific planning and development.

The purpose of the Rail Specific Planning and Development contract was to study key subject areas. One area was a review of single track high-speed railway – as Norway is a sparselypopulated country with limited demand for train services, would single track high-speed rail suffice? And if so, would they work properly?

WSP worked on the design of crossing loops on single track high-speed railways and their effect on capacity, travel time and avoidance of delays.

Stations on high-speed railway lines were also reviewed by WSP, with questions such as station design brought into the study. Experi – ences from other countries were considered in this area, particularly the wider economic effects of high-speed railway stops.

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