National Technical Rules

National Technical Rules (NTRs) are those rules (standards) which the Interoperability Directive require each Member State to notify in the absence of a Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI).

‘In the absence of’ includes situations where a TSI has not been written yet, where it contains an identified open point or where a deviation from a TSI has been notified. NTRs provide additional controls to ensure that the essential requirements specified in the Interoperability Directives are met.

NTRs are not permitted to supplement the TSIs on performance related issues or repeat requirements mandated by the TSIs.

NTRs also support specific cases in TSIs and set out requirements to maintain technical compatibility between existing assets that do not conform to the requirements of TSIs and new, upgraded or renewed assets conforming to TSIs.

The industry process to be used for identifying and managing NTRs for the GB mainline railway is set out in the Railway Group Standards Code.

Notification of NTRs

RSSB is responsible, on behalf of the industry, for proposing to the Department for Transport (DfT) those industry standards that should be notified against each of the TSIs for use on the GB mainline railway. The DfT may need to notify additional requirements to ensure the notified NTRs (NNTRs) address all of the essential requirements.

RSSB provides the DfT with lists of requirements from RGSs which the industry proposes should be notified as NTRs for each of the TSIs, either published or under development. The NTRs provided by RSSB are intended for use by project entities on the GB mainline railway, as defined in the Railway (Interoperability) Regulations 2011.

The DfT publishes the NNTRs and project-specific technical rules that it has notified to the European Commission for use in Great Britain, on its website but in the interim the most update to date lists are here:

The lists of NTRs and related documents will be subject to periodic review in response to changes in the status of the TSIs, the closing out of open points in the TSIs and as GB standards are developed or withdrawn. Updated lists of the proposed NTRs will be provided to the DfT every three months, to align with the publication of the Standards Catalogue.

Application of notified NTRs for rail vehicle authorisation

The ORR has provided guidance to help clarify how NNTRs should be applied to rail vehicle projects.  This is useful as the latest versions of TSIs and NNTRs could change during the lifetime of a typical rail vehicle project.

Essentially, projects should use the relevant NNTRs based on the applicable TSIs at the time of appointment of the Notified Body (NoBo), (the entity which assesses whether the product to be placed on the market meets appropriate standards).

Guidance and clarifications to assist with application of notified NTRs

From time-to-time documents will be published to assist with application of NNTRs, the following documents have been published to date:

Applicability and relevance of Railway Group Standards and Rail Industry Standards

The Industry Standards Coordination Committee (ISCC) placed an action on RSSB and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to clarify when compliance with Railway Group Standards (RGSs) becomes compulsory under the Interoperability and licence regimes.  A clear position was required to address any confusion in scenarios when a project is not in scope of the Rail (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 (as amended) thereby making requirements in RGSs not compulsory as NNTRs, but at the same time potentially compulsory via the licence condition, or vice versa.

On 22 May 2018 ISCC considered the ORR sponsored paper which provided clarification regarding the applicability of Railway Group Standards (RGS) under the licence condition and when compliance with RGSs becomes compulsory.  ISCC members were asked to communicate the advice in the paper to their constituents.  The paper clarified that:

  • The scope of current RGSs is limited to NTRs to support the Interoperability Regulations. They are only compulsory when compliance is required for a change covered by those regulations. However, this does not remove the obligations on organisations, under ROGS 2006 (as amended) or any other relevant regulations, to assess and apply industry standards (such as RGSs and RISs) based on suitable and sufficient risk assessments.
  • In all other circumstances not covered by Interoperability Regulations, ROGS 2006 (as amended) obligations continue to apply, including the need to consider all relevant technical and operational standards (such as RGSs, RISs, etc) and, apply them based on suitable and sufficient risk assessments.

ISCC and RSSB also recommended that the ORR should formalise the need for licence holders to comply with RISs unless, they have consulted with other affected parties and identified an equally effective measure which will achieve the purpose of the RIS.  ORR progressed with this recommendation while updating Network Rail's licence conditions (see http://orr.gov.uk/rail/consultations/pr18-consultations/network-rail-network-licence-review-consultation-on-draft-network-licence for further details on the consultation).

See page on Emphasising the importance of Rail Industry Standards in licence conditions.

Recommended approach for identifying valid fire testing requirements for vehicles. Based on discussions between the DfT, the ORR and RSSB, a proposed way forward was identified for projects seeking an authorisation to place in service from the ORR.  Projects should follow the decision logic set out in Annex A of this document to identify the valid fire testing requirements applicable to their work.  The proposed approach aims to ensure double testing is avoided by existing projects, which may be reliant on GMRT2130 or BS6853, while new projects can rely on EN16989:2018 for fire testing and on EN45545-2 for other fire tests relevant to vehicles.

The approach recommended in this document has been endorsed by the ORR.

Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 as amended and the Office of Rail and Road’s advice on application of notified NTRs for rail vehicle authorisation
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) published a letter in March 2016 on the application of NNTRs for rail vehicle authorisation.  The letter provides clarification on the way in which NNTRs should be applied to rail vehicle projects.  An NTR that is notified for interoperability purposes may have one of the following roles in relation to TSIs:
    •   to define the national approach to an open point
    •   to define the requirements of a specific case
    •   to deliver network compatibility.
This means that the choice of NNTRs to apply to a project is made on the basis of the applicable TSIs.  The annex 1 of the letter provides a diagram depicting the evolution of TSIs and NNTRs over time.

National procedure for the assessment and certification of Interoperability Constituents
When a product is listed as an IC in the TSI and there is a specific case (a country has a specific requirement to do something different to the TSI) related to the IC requirements, it presents a challenge. This is because an IC designed to the specific case requirement (necessary to work in a country) may no longer be suitable for use across the EU rail system and may not be able to gain the necessary EC certificate for conformity. The absence of an alternative regime means that such products cannot independently gain relevant certifications, on which the subsystem manufacturers may be reliant to gain authorisation for their subsystem. This also means potentially no formal certificate for such products to re-use across projects in GB/UK.

To address this challenge, we have worked closely with the industry, ORR and the DfT to develop a UK national procedure for companies to follow in such a scenario. This is supported by DfT who asked us to develop an approach following the European Railway Agency’s technical opinion (ERA/OPI/2015-2) which concluded that a Member State can define its own national procedures in such a scenario.  

Letter from Robin Groth, Rail Executive, DfT to rail stakeholders about the National Procedure 

Reference Document Database and authorisation of rail vehicles

The Reference Document Database (RDD) is intended to provide access to each Member States' national rules relevant to the authorisation of rail vehicles, their equivalence and the National Legal Frameworks applied in the Member States of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland. The RDD supports the principle of mutual recognition of national rules, the checks against these rules and the associated authorisations to place into service (often referred to as 'cross acceptance').

Open points in TSIs not closed out by RGSs

For some TSIs, there are open points where the GB mainline railway does not yet have a RGS to address the issue. 

Where there is an open point which is not closed out by a RGS, the DfT requires each project entity that is doing work on the mainline railway to propose how it is going to address any such open points relevant to its project. Project entities may seek observations and comments from the relevant Standards Committee(s) on the proposed way forward in accordance with 13.3 of the Standards Manual Issue Three by using the application form.

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