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On Tuesday 25 April 2017, the CRR conducted a presentation to a joint meeting of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (Irish Section) and the Engineers Ireland Railways Group. It primarily dealt with the implementation of the 4th Railway Package as enforceable from the European Union.

There have been three previous packages, dating from 2001, 2004 and 2007. All of these packages were designed to open up the rail markets and have standard legislation for operating across the European Union.

The 4th Package is designed to remove the remaining barriers to the creation of a single European rail area. These include:

-Standards and approvals that work across the Union;

-Opening domestic passenger markets;

-Maintaining a skilled rail workforce.

The European Railway Agency is now to be named the European Union Agency for Railways (EUAR). The package will also legally separate the Railway Undertaking and Infrastructure Management sides of Iarnród Éireann, with the EUAR providing type approvals and RU safety certificates. The current set up (as implemented in the 1st Railway Package in March 2013) did separate the IM and RU sides of Iarnród Éireann, but not into two legally separate companies.

One of the main findings prior to the publication of the package was that open tendering for Public Service Obligation (PSO) services gave rise to savings of 20-30% in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. It also showed that the domestic rail markets (of which PSO accounts for two thirds) remain substantially closed to competition. This includes Ireland, where there are only two regular service operators (Iarnród Éireann in the Republic and Translink in Northern Ireland). Although other organisations have operating certificates, they do not run scheduled or PSO services. The implementation in full of the 4th Package would result in open tendering for the majority of rail services that rely on PSO grants.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 193, published June 2017

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