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Complying with Legislation

This page describes the legislative framework in which the rail industry operates, covering railway-specific regulations and some non-railway-specific regulations.

The regulations governing the management of change on the GB mainline railway system are set out in the Management of change webpage.

Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011

The Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 (as amended) (RIR 2011) implements in the UK European Railway Interoperability Directive 2008/57/EC. RIR 2011 concerns the ‘placing in service’ of a structural subsystem after it has been designed and constructed, renewed or upgraded (and the placing on the market of interoperability constituents). The five structural subsystems are infrastructure, energy, trackside control-command and signalling, on-board control-command and signalling and rolling stock. There are also three functional subsystems (operation and traffic management, maintenance and telematic applications for passenger and freight services).

A person ‘placing in service’ a structural subsystem can be either a manufacturer or a ‘contracting entity’ (a person who contracts or intends to contract with another person for that other person to design, construct, renew, or upgrade a subsystem). It can also be an authorised representative of these. Under RIR 2011 this person is known as the ‘project entity’.

Before completion of the design stage, or before commencement of the manufacture stage, of a structural subsystem (whichever is earlier) the project entity must engage a Notified Body or a Designated Body. The Notified Body assesses conformity of the subsystem with Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) and the Designated Body assesses conformity with Notified National Technical Rules. RSSB proposes to the Department for Transport (DfT), on behalf of the rail industry, standards that should be notified as National Technical Rules. DfT notifies National Technical Rules to the European Commission. 

National Technical Rules are contained in Railway Group Standards, which are approved by Standards Committees and authorised by RSSB under the Railway Group Standards Code and in accordance with the Standards Manual. The Industry Standards Coordination Committee provides advice and guidance on matters such as the reconciliation of uncertainty or conflict between Standards Committees and the impact of any changes in legislation on the content of Railway Group Standards. Railway Group Standards cover the mainline railway in Great Britain. 
National Technical Rules can only exist if the purpose is to: 

  1. fill an ‘open point’ or meet specific cases in a TSI; or
  2. maintain technical compatibility between existing assets that do not conform to TSIs and new, upgraded or renewed assets that do. 

TSIs are European Regulations that cover the EU mainline railway system.  They are therefore mandatory and directly applicable in an EU Member State. Some European Standards (EN) are referenced in TSIs (and also in Railway Group Standards and Rail Industry Standards).

Before a structural subsystem can be ‘put into use’ the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) must grant an ‘authorisation for placing in service’ (APIS) for that subsystem. A structural subsystem is ‘put into use’ when, having been constructed, upgraded or renewed, it is first used on, or as part of, the rail system in the UK for the transportation of passengers or freight or for the purpose for which it was designed. An APIS is granted by the ORR if 

  1. the project entity has properly drawn up a ‘verification declaration’ to show that it is satisfied that the essential requirements are met and that it has for the structural system a technical file and a certificate of verification prepared by the Notified Body and the Designated Body;
  2. the project subsystem is technically compatible with the rail system (the network) into which it is being integrated (see European Commission Recommendation (EU) 2014/897 [also known as DV29bis]); and 
  3. the subsystem has been so designed, constructed and installed as to meet the essential requirements relating to it.

The six essential requirements are safety, reliability and availability, health, environmental protection, technical compatibility and accessibility.
In addition to checking conformity of the subsystem with TSIs and compiling a technical file, the Notified Body is also responsible for assessing the interface between the project subsystem and the rail system to the extent that such an assessment is possible based on information available in the

  • Relevant TSI,
  • European Register of Authorised Types of Vehicles (ERATV), and
  • Register of Infrastructure (RINF).

The common specifications for ERATV are contained in Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2011/665 (as amended by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/776) – consolidation version available. The European Union Agency for Railways has published an application guide (which contains some track changes).

The common specifications for RINF are contained in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU 2019/777.
Once an APIS has been granted and the subsystem is put into use, it is the responsibility of the railway undertaking or the infrastructure manager to manage, under its safety management system (SMS), the risks relating to the subsystem’s ongoing use. 

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations (as amended) 2006

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (as amended) (ROGS) implements in Great Britain European Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC. Under ROGS a train cannot be operated on the mainline railway unless the railway undertaking (called a transport undertaking under ROGS) has established an SMS and obtained a safety certificate from the ORR. A person responsible for developing and maintaining mainline railway infrastructure or managing and operating a mainline station (the infrastructure manager) must have established an SMS and obtained a safety authorisation from the ORR to manage or use it, or permit it to be used, for the operation of trains.

An SMS must be established so that (among other things) it applies the relevant parts of common safety methods (CSM), controls all categories of risks, meets certain requirements and contains basic elements.  The requirements and basic elements (see Schedule 1 of ROGS) include:

  • procedures to meet relevant technical and operational standards or other requirements as set out in TSIs and other relevant safety requirements (including procedures to ensure compliance with these requirements throughout the lifecycle of any relevant equipment or operation); and
  • procedures and methods for carrying out risk evaluation and implementing risk control measures when (a) there is a change in the way in which the operation is carried out, or (b) new material is used, which gives rise to new risks.

“Relevant technical and operational standards” can include Railway Group Standards, Rail Industry Standards and company standards. 

RSSB has produced guidance on the content of an SMS which can be found in the resources section below.

The CSM for risk evaluation and assessment (CSM RA) is used whenever there is a technical, operational or organisational change on the mainline railway that affects safety. If the change is not significant, the proposer of the change must keep a record of its decision. If the change is significant then the proposer must apply the risk management process under the CSM RA.  The risk management process is based on the analysis and evaluation of hazards using one or more of the three risk acceptance principles (application of codes of practice, comparison with similar systems (reference systems) and explicit risk estimation). Codes of practice can include Railway Group Standards, Rail Industry Standards and company standards (see section G8.3 of Rail Industry Guidance Note GEGN8646).

As part of the risk management process, the proposer must engage an assessment body to carry out an independent evaluation of how it applied the process and the results obtained.

ORR has published guidance on the application of the CSM RA. Further guidance on the CSM RA in the context of managing change on the GB mainline railway can also be found on the ‘Management of change’ page of this website.

In addition, ROGS also have duties for: 

  • duty holders to work together to make sure the transport system is run safely (regulation 22) (see RSSB part 1 and part 2 guidance on the duty of cooperation in the resources section below), and 
  • those responsible for the maintenance of a rail vehicle (known as an entity in charge of maintenance or ECM) to have a maintenance system in place to ensure the vehicle is safe to operate. If the vehicle is a freight wagon, the ECM must have an ECM certificate (see the ‘Certification of entities in charge of maintenance’ page of this website).

Operator licensing

Anyone operating a railway asset on the mainline railway in Great Britain will require a licence from the ORR under section 6 of the Railways Act 1993. Railway assets are any network; station; train being used on a network, whether for the purpose of carrying passengers or goods by railway or for any other purpose whatsoever; or light maintenance depot.


An operator of freight and passenger train services will require a European licence (and the accompanying Statement of National Regulatory Provisions [SNRP]) from the ORR under the Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2015.

A licence ensures operators are fit to operate on a railway and have good repute; professional safety competence; financial fitness; and insurance cover for civil liabilities.
A licence or SNRP has many conditions that allow the holder to operate the railway asset. These include:

  1. mandatory compliance with Railway Group Standards; and
  2. compliance with applicable Rail Industry Standards unless the licence or SNRP holder has, following consultation with such persons as it considers are likely to be affected, identified an equally effective measure which will achieve the purpose of the standard and it has adopted and is complying with that measure.

Even though it is mandatory to comply with Railway Group Standards, there are occasions when projects require alternative measures to those in the standard. Standards Committees can approve an application for a deviation from a Railway Group Standard only if it is sufficiently complete and the deviation:

  1. enables the railway system and its subsystems to meet the essential requirements; and
  2. promotes the long-term best interests of the whole mainline railway system.

An application should be submitted only when an alternative has been identified and all parties affected by it have been consulted.

Common Safety Methods

The Railway Safety Directive 2004/49/EC required ‘Common Safety Methods’ (CSMs) to be drafted by the European Union Agency for Railways, working to a mandate from the European Commission.  The CSMs are defined as 'the methods to be developed to describe how safety levels and achievement of safety targets and compliance with other safety requirements are assessed'.  Currently, there are six CSMs:

All CSMs take the form of Commission Regulations (except for the CSM for assessment and achievement of safety targets, which is a Commission Decision).  As such, they are directly applicable in all Member States without the need for transposition into domestic legislation.  They therefore have the same force as a UK statutory instrument.

Please also see the ‘Changes to Common Safety Methods’ page of this website.

Common Safety Targets

Common Safety Targets (CSTs) are European-wide safety targets. They are set by the European Railway Agency (ERA) and are designed for member states to achieve at their level, rather than at the level of the individual transport operator.

RSSB’s briefing note HLOS and Common Safety Targets – What you need to know provides some additional information about CSTs.

Non-rail-specific legislation

Health and Safety at Work Act

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) provides, for the duties of employers towards employees, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure their health, safety and welfare at work. Similar duties extend to people who are not employees, and to others who visit work premises. HSWA also provides for other duties, particularly around the use of articles and substances for use at work and the release of harmful emissions into atmosphere.

You can find more detail of these duties and other supporting information on the
Health and Safety Executive web page about the HSWA.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM Regulations) describe law that applies to a construction site during the period when construction work is being carried out.

For example, part of a station platform, usually subject to the requirements of a transport operator’s safety management system, would become subject to CDM Regulations while any construction work is being carried out.

Railway Legislation News

RSSB publishes monthly news and updates on emerging and evolving railway legislation and standards in the areas of safety, interoperability and health and wellbeing.

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