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European Railway Agency launched

On 15 July 2004, the first meeting of the Administrative Board of the European Railway Agency took place in Valenciennes. The new EU body aims to improve the safety and interoperability of Europe’s railway networks.

Image: Peter Gutierrez
Image: Peter Gutierrez

The Administrative Board of the European Railway Agency includes representatives of the 25 EU Member States, the European Commission and a variety of rail transport stakeholders, from railway companies to infrastructure managers, railway industry staff representatives, passenger organisations and railway freight customers. It provides a decision-making platform for the Agency and will draw up a work programme for 2004-2005.

The Agency, say EU officials, is an essential component of the European Union’s policy on improving rail transport. Currently, technical and safety rules within the 25 Member States are mutually incompatible and this has been a major handicap to the sector’s development. It will be the Agency’s task to gradually harmonise these rules and set common standards to be achieved on all European railways. In doing so, the Agency will directly contribute to the creation of a safe, integrated and highly competitive railway area.

New life for an aging sector

Breathing new life into the European railway sector is a key element of the EU’s common transport policy. In particular, the new Railway Agency will seek to improve the balance between the various modes of transport, favouring those that are the most environmentally friendly and guarantee the highest level of safety.

The Agency’s offices are to be located in Valenciennes, France, while the international meetings conducted by the Agency will be held in Lille. The Agency’s Executive Director will be appointed by the Administrative Board at a meeting set for in autumn 2004. The Agency will include about one hundred experts by the time it is fully operational in 2006.