European Railway Agency
As part of the "second railway package" the legal basis for a European Railway Agency was provided in Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council. This Agency is based in Valenciennes in the French département of Bas-de-Calais.
The Agency's main task is to provide the European Commission (EC) and the Member States with technical assistance in order to improve the interoperability of the European railway system (railway rolling stock should be able to travel across networks with a minimum of impediment) and its safety. The Agency will concentrate primarily on the preparation of common standards on safety and the further development of Technical Specifications for Interoperability ("TSIs"). It has taken over the work of the EARI (European Association for Railway Interoperability) which was previously responsible for these matters but whose mandate expired in 2005.
The first meeting of the Administrative Board was held in Valenciennes on 15 July 2004. The Board comprises one member and one alternate from each Member State of the European Union, four members and alternates from the Commission and six members representing the railway sector (railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, railway industry, trade unions, passengers and rail freight customers). This body, headed by a Chairman of the Administrative Board, decides the Agency's budget for the following year and its work programmes. Only the members representing the Member States and Commission may vote on these matters.
Bodies and plans for the future
The Chairman of the Administrative Board is Mr Reino Lampinen, Deputy Director-General at the Finnish Ministry of Transport and former transport attaché at the Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union. The Austrian members of the Board are Mr Wolfgang Catharin and Mr Klaus Gstettenbauer. The Board elected Mr Marcel Verslype, former Director of SNBC (Belgian Railways), as its Executive Director from a shortlist of nominations by the European Commission.
The Agency will be developed in stages, becoming fully operational by the statutory deadline of 29 April 2006 with a staff of 100 or so railway professionals in Valenciennes. Working alongside delegates from the Member States in numerous working parties, these experts will carry out the work delegated to the Agency in preparation for decisions by the appropriate bodies in Brussels. Numerous experts from the Railways Group in the Austrian Transport Ministry have been appointed to the various working parties, ensuring that European bodies will benefit from the high-calibre input which Austria's railway specialists can provide.
Further information and in particular details of job vacancies at this Agency can be found on the Railway Transport and Interoperability web site of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and Transport.