HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc69-70W
Mrs. Dunwoody

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what(a) terms and conditions, (b) terms of reference and (c) jurisdiction are planned for the European Rail Agency. [61145]

Mr. Spellar

According to the draft proposal, the purpose of the European Rail Agency is "to contribute, on technical matters, to implementation of the community legislation aiming at enhancing the level of interoperability of rail systems and at developing a common approach to safety on the European railway system". Its role would be to establish a source of neutral technical expertise at a European level. It would have no autonomous decision-making powers, but would provide advice and technical support to decisions made by the Commission and member states.

Consideration of the Agency proposal has not yet started in the Council and its proposed role and governance may change as a result of these discussions.

Mrs. Dunwoody

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures he plans to promote the inter-operability of EU rail systems; what their approximate cost is; and what timetable is planned for their implementation. [61144]

Mr. Spellar

The UK is involved in European discussions on the development of interoperability, and the Department, working closely with the Strategic Rail Authority and Health and Safety Executive, and in consultation with the rail industry, will continue to implement and ensure compliance with the relevant directives as appropriate.

Regulations to implement directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the high-speed trans-European rail network came into force on 16 May 2002. A Regulatory Impact Assessment, which addresses the cost of implementation of these regulations, was placed in the House Library on 25 April 2002. Guidance on the scope and application of the regulations has been published on the Department's website and is also available in printed form.

Directive 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the conventional trans-European rail network is due to be implemented by March 2003. We shall in due course produce a further Regulatory Impact Assessment to accompany the necessary regulations.

There is no timetable for making rail systems interoperable. The directives do not require projects to be initiated—the obligation to comply with their provisions only arises where new projects are undertaken. Implementation will, therefore, be gradual.

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