Brexit: Applying RSSB Published Standards After October 2019

The standards and protocols that help ensure the different companies across the railway work safely as a system will remain after Brexit.

The Brexit timetable

The UK will formally withdraw from the EU by 31 October 2019.

At this stage it is unclear whether or not there will be a “deal” between the UK and EU, and if there is a deal, what it will comprise.

This creates uncertainty in all industries and organisations, including the railways, so RSSB is working on behalf of its members with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to address issues of concern and get as much clarity about the impact of Brexit, and the way future arrangements for standards and regulation might work.

What are the likely immediate impacts for RSSB managed standards?

In the short term there are not likely to be any significant changes to the way RSSB-managed standards work after Brexit – regardless of whether there is a deal or not.

You should continue to comply with applicable Railway Group Standards, Rail Industry Standards and the Rule Book to meet your legal obligations and other objectives after the UK formally leaves the EU, as you do now.

These standards are developed collaboratively using our technical expertise and are agreed by the GB rail industry using ORR and industry-approved governance frameworks. They will continue to be a source of good requirements, guidance and rules which are beneficial for the GB mainline railway system. RSSB will continue to play a vital role in facilitating cross-industry agreement on rail-specific standards whatever happens.

What are the likely immediate impacts for EU standards?

There are different sources of obligations and requirements relevant to organisations across the EU such as: 

  • European Commission Directives, Decisions and Regulations such as Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs)
  • European standards produced by CEN, CENELEC (ENs) and ETSI
  • International standards produced by ISO, IEC and ITU

European standards (ii) and International standards (iii) are not directly affected by EU membership, except when they are referred to in European Commission Directives, etc. This is less than 20% of these standards.

The impact on European Commission Directives and Regulations depends on the terms of any deal that is negotiated. In the short term there are three possible cases:

  • Case 1 – UK leaves EU without a deal
  • Case 2 – UK negotiates a deal and transition period takes effect
  • Case 3 – Transition period ends, and terms of a deal are implemented

The current UK Government’s policy is to provide regulatory alignment with the EU for goods which means in the short term there is unlikely to be any significant divergence from EU-derived requirements, such as TSIs.

In the case of ‘no deal’ (case 1) the Government is currently preparing arrangements to largely preserve existing EU mechanisms in national legislation. This provides continuity in the short term and creates the flexibility to diverge from EU requirements in the longer term, should we choose to.

If a deal is agreed, during the transition period (case 2), current EU requirements continue to apply and any new ones will generally also be applied. At the end of the transition period (likely to be December 2020) the terms of any deal will apply (case 3), the detail being clearly dependent on the deal negotiated. It is also likely that in this case the government may have to transpose EU’s Fourth Railway Package Directives into domestic legislation as the deadline for transposition would be before December 2020.

RSSB has been working very closely with the DfT over the past 12 months to ensure that in a potential ‘no deal’ scenario, any requirements derived from the EU framework are legally fit for purpose for application in the UK and workable solutions in place with respect to their application. The overriding objective has been to ensure that the current interoperability regime remains operable, while enabling flexibility in terms of convergence or divergence from the EU framework with the right mechanisms in place. When the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, the UK and EU systems will start from a fully aligned and legally robust position.

The legal obligations that were present before Brexit will remain the same post-Brexit and the updated domestic legislation will reflect this approach in the two major areas of Interoperability (via the Rail Interoperability Regulation) and Safety (via the the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations and other related regulations).

In a no-deal scenario, the proposed approach is that the relevant standards that help meet the obligations are set out in domestic law; for example current requirements in the TSIs will be adapted to work in a purely domestic context and will be published as National Technical Specification Notices (NTSNs) by the Secretary of State. The law is likely to require compliance with these requirements under the domestic Interoperability Regulations.

The EU Regulations relevant to safety (such as safety authorisations and certifications), driver licencing, vehicle registration, Common Safety Methods, etc will be reflected in/converted to domestic UK regulations, and will be very similar to the current arrangements.

It is anticipated that a pragmatic solution will be proposed in terms of recognising certification work done in the EU, particularly where UK and EU standards remain aligned, for example for interoperability constituents. The EU has so far stated that the reciprocal arrangement (EU recognising UK certification) will not apply. RSSB will continue to work with DfT to develop a pragmatic rail-specific transition and recognition approach to avoid (as far is possible) any unnecessary confusion, cost and bureaucracy. Previous work done by RSSB on the national procedure on interoperability constituents with specific cases and other guidance on transition arrangements is likely to be used as good starting point in developing any guidance in this area. 
The framework of independent conformity assessment bodies is likely to continue, with UK Approved Bodies assessing conformity against NTSNs (like the NoBos for TSIs), and Designated Bodies (DeBos) assessing conformity against National Rules as is the case now.

Therefore, the overriding message is that the standards framework and relevant requirements whether derived from the EU or UK, will for national application continue as they are now post Brexit, and where there are minor variations in terminology or implementation, clear guidance and direction will be provided by RSSB, DfT or ORR as necessary.

The possible long-term scenarios

It is impossible to be certain about what the future framework will be in the long term. Over time, we are likely to be in one of three scenarios:

  • Scenario A – Very similar to today’s framework
  • Scenario B – Similar, but with some differences to today
  • Scenario C – Very different to today
  • Immediately after the UK formally leaves the EU, we are likely to be in Scenario A whether there is a deal or not.

    However, as time moves on, the UK may choose to either retain close convergence or to diverge from the EU. A modest level of divergence leads us into Scenario B. In the longer term, the UK may adopt a different technical and regulatory approach which could lead to Scenario C. Presently, there is no indication that this is likely in the short- to medium-term.

    We will ensure the framework for standards on Britain’s railways remains sufficiently robust, yet also suitably flexible to adapt to different scenarios.

Long term future of standards in a post-Brexit world

Regardless of the future scenario, our members have told us a number of primary objectives they need to be achieved to the fullest extent possible.

These include:

  • Mutual recognition of certifications and authorisations (where UK recognises EU certification and vice-versa, avoiding need for re-examination)
  • Regulations and standards needed to support certification and authorisations conducted in Britain
  • Ability to influence EU regulations and standards so that supply of good and services is seamless
  • Cooperation and collaboration with EU partners to share data, knowledge and information
  • Access to skills and knowledge from the EU member states to support needs in the UK
  • Agreed mechanisms to align with or diverge from EU requirements across the GB network

RSSB, those who contribute to our committees and groups, and the standards and guidance that is developed as a result will continue to have a vital role in helping our members meet these needs.

The future of standardisation

Over the last 50 years, around the world the trend is for markets to be as open as possible, leading to increased standardisation of products and services, reducing costs. The requirements for railways are generally set at European and increasingly global level, delivering economic benefit to the sector.

Brexit is unlikely to diminish this trend and other factors, particularly technological developments are likely to accelerate this approach.

This means we need to make sure standards for rail in Britain continue to meet the needs of both the global marketplace and the buyers and customers of railways in Britain.

What to do now

Plan to continue to apply RSSB-published standards after the UK formally leave the EU.

Longer term, we’re advising our members to continue planning for a range of possible outcomes from Brexit.

We advise members to avoid fixating or speculating on the nature of a deal, but instead focus on your overall strategic goals and objectives you are seeking to achieve as an organisation, and as an industry as a whole.

Then consider the impact of different scenarios that could occur from Brexit, and think about how you may need to prepare as an organisation for different outcomes.

In other words: what are your strategic goals, and how do different scenarios affect your ability to meet those goals?

What we’re doing

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Vaibhav Puri
Tel: 020 3142 5446
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