Guidance to help prepare industry to run domestic and cross-border rail operations from 1 January 2021.
New rules for January 2021
The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.
This page tells you what you’ll need to do from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.
You can also read about the transition period.
This baseline guidance tells you how to prepare for 1 January 2021. After that date, you may need different documentation to run or work in the EU, on cross-border and on domestic UK rail services. In the large majority of cases, individuals and operators will already have the necessary documentation – however, it is important that you have checked that it is the case and you do this as soon as possible.
The current rules on rail transport safety and technical standards, train driving and operator licences, safety certificates and safety authorisations, passenger rights and cross-border rail operations will continue to apply until 31 December 2020.
Please also refer to the European Commission’s notice, published on 28 April 2020, to prepare for the EU regime from 1 January 2021: the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU Rules in the Field of Rail Transport.
EU-based railway undertakings
If you are an EU-based operator, and have not already applied for UK documentation, you need to apply to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for documentation to run services in Great Britain. You need to obtain the necessary documentation by 31 January 2022.
You need to prepare and allow enough time to apply for and obtain this documentation. In Northern Ireland, non-UK operators are currently not subject to a time-limited period.
UK-based railway undertakings
It is likely that certificates and licences issued in the UK will not be valid in the EU from 1 January 2021.
Operators of cross-border services will be subject to the recognition implications set out in this guidance and must comply with them.
Recognition of documentation
The UK will recognise EC conformity assessment documentation against EU rail technical specifications as valid evidence of compliance with any identical requirements in UK rail technical specifications.
Legislation will be amended to limit this period of recognition to 1 January 2023 in Great Britain. For vehicle authorisations for international services, we will continue to accept EU assessments insofar as we are required to do so in line with our obligations under COTIF.
Further information will be provided separately in relation to Northern Ireland.
The UK will continue to recognise certain other EU-issued documents until 31 January 2022 for services in Great Britain. These are operator licences, safety certificates, and train driving licences.
The 2-year time limit from 31 January 2020 on recognition of these categories of EU-issued documents does not currently apply to Northern Ireland.
Broad contingency arrangements have been put in place to support the continuation of services through the Channel Tunnel and on the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise line. We remain in close contact with parties about those arrangements and what they need to do.
Any future arrangements with France are expected to deal with the Channel Tunnel itself but not with the routes into continental Europe (beyond Calais-Fréthun). UK operators and train drivers will need to obtain additional licences and safety certificates to operate or work in the EU.
We strongly encourage operators planning to operate in the EU, including the cross-border area, to secure the necessary documentation by 31 December 2020 to provide maximum certainty for all scenarios. You should act as soon as possible, if you have not already done so.
Participation in the EU Agency for Railways
The UK’s formal participation in the EU Agency for Railways (ERA) ended on 31 January 2020 and we are not seeking membership of ERA. We encourage the UK rail industry to continue to work with ERA at technical and working levels, where appropriate. We also intend to put in place appropriate arrangements for regulatory co-operation with ERA where this is necessary to secure the safety of international rail services.
Stakeholders should be actively planning for this position with respect to the ERA and considering their options with ERA for engagement. Stakeholders should also be considering more broadly how best to use their full range of international relationships to influence debates around technical standards into the future.
Rail passenger rights
Passengers using cross-border services are responsible for ensuring that their insurance and ticket terms cover possible disruption.
The rights of UK passengers on both domestic and cross-border rail services will not change.
There will be no impact on the validity of operator licences in the UK for:
- UK-based domestic operators that already hold an ORR-issued licence
- operators registered in the UK that already hold an ORR-issued licence, but whose parent companies are situated in the EU or elsewhere outside the UK
This accounts for the vast majority of train operating companies in the UK.
Licences issued by an EU country will be valid for operators in Great Britain until 31 January 2022. EU-based railway undertakings with an EU operating licence wanting to run services in the UK need to secure a licence from the ORR by this date to continue operating.
After 31 January 2022, operators with an EU operating licence will need to hold an ORR-issued licence to operate in Great Britain. You do not need to be established in the UK to do this, but you will need to have applied for and been issued with the ORR licence by 31 January 2022 to continue operating after that date.
Operators holding an ORR-issued licence that run domestic services in the EU will need to re-apply for an operator licence in an EU member state, consulting the relevant guidance and following the requirements from the EU or the relevant member state. The licence must be in place by 1 January 2021.
This is also the case for UK-based operators seeking to run new domestic services in an EU member state.
Operators of cross-border services between the UK and the EU holding an ORR-issued licence will need to re-apply for an operator licence in an EU member state. The licence must be in place by 1 January 2021.
ORR-issued Part A and Part B safety certificates will still be valid for UK-based domestic operators operating in Great Britain until their normal expiry.
EU established operators running a domestic-only service in Great Britain with an EU Part A safety certificate can use these certificates until 31 January 2022.
This will also apply to operators running services with a single safety certificate issued under Directive (EU) 2016/798, which will be deemed equivalent to a UK Part A safety certificate during the period between 31 December 2020 and 31 January 2022.
If you operate trains in Great Britain on the basis of an EU-issued safety certificate, you therefore need to obtain relevant safety certification issued by the ORR by 31 January 2022 at the latest. Please note that an ORR-issued Part B certificate associated with an EU-issued Part A safety certificate or a Single Safety Certificate will expire alongside the parent certificate and an operator obtaining new safety certification will also be required to apply for and obtain a new Part B safety certificate.
You should note that ORR’s guidance on safety certification encourages applications to be made 6 months before the certificate is required to be in place.
You do not need to be established in the UK to obtain relevant safety certification issued by the ORR, but you will need to provide a UK address in your application. In Northern Ireland, non-UK based operators running a domestic-only service with a Part A safety certificate issued in the EU are not currently subject to a time-limited recognition period.
Any EU operator seeking to run domestic services in Great Britain based on an EU-issued Single Safety Certificate, issued under Directive (EU) 2016/798 until 31 January 2022, will also have to obtain a Part B safety certificate from the ORR before it can do so.
UK-based operators running domestic services in the EU who hold an ORR-issued, or Northern Ireland-issued, Part A safety certificate need to obtain an EU safety certificate by 1 January 2021. This also applies to UK-based operators seeking to run new domestic services in an EU country.
Operators established in the UK who operate cross-border services and hold an ORR-issued Part A safety certificate will need to obtain EU safety certification by 1 January 2021.
Entities in charge of maintenance certificates
Entities in charge of maintenance (ECM) that maintain vehicles in the EU on the basis of an ECM certificate issued in the UK by the ORR or an accredited certification body need to apply for and obtain a new ECM certificate from a certification body in an EU country.
Vehicles used in international traffic between the UK and the EU also have the option of obtaining a certificate according to the legal framework of the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF). The validity of ECM certificates issued in the UK by the ORR or an accredited certification body will be unchanged for freight wagons running purely on the UK mainline railway. ECMs that hold a certificate issued in accordance with COTIF can continue using these certificates in the UK for operations involved in international traffic. ECMs may also rely on certificates issued in the EU in accordance with Commission Regulation 445/2011, or Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/779, to maintain freight wagons for use in domestic operations.
Train driving licences
From 31 January 2022, train driving licences issued in the EU will no longer be valid in Great Britain, including those used for cross-border services, in accordance with recent amendments made by the Train Driving Licences and Certificates (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 as amended by the Railways (Miscellaneous Amendments, Revocations and Transitional Provisions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.
If you currently drive trains in Great Britain using a train driving licence issued in an EU country, you will need to obtain a train driving licence from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) by 31 January 2022 to continue operating services. Applicants for ORR licences are advised to follow the procedures set out in the ORR’s online guidance as part of their application.
Current holders of EU issued train driving licences will be considered as new applicants when applying to the ORR for a new licence. New applicants will be required to meet the conditions for obtaining a licence in accordance with Regulation 8 of the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010.
This includes passing the necessary medical, occupational psychological fitness and general professional competence examinations, on the basis of confirmation from doctors, psychologists and examiners on the register maintained by the ORR in accordance with Regulation 23 of the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010.
Train driving licences issued in Great Britain will remain valid from the end of the transition period on the terms of their original issue in Great Britain, including for cross-border services. Train drivers will be required to renew their licences when these expire, as they do now, in accordance with the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010. The validity of train driving certificates will be unaffected; but, operators will need to ensure that certificates held by drivers refer to a valid licence.
From 1 January 2021, the placing of interoperability constituents on the market in Great Britain will be based on a UK conformity assessment process, requiring compliance with applicable UK National Technical Specification Notices (NTSNs). Where applicable requirements in NTSNs are identical to those contained in EU Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs), an interoperability constituent can continue to be placed on the market with EC conformity assessment documentation against the relevant TSI requirements. Legislation will be amended to limit this period of recognition to 1 January 2023 in Great Britain. Further information will be provided separately in relation to Northern Ireland.
It is currently expected that an interoperability constituent placed on the EU market up to 31 December 2020 with a certificate of conformity from a UK notified body will be able to be used within the EU for the period of validity of that certificate in subsystems or vehicles authorised before 1 January 2021.
Vehicles first authorised in the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to be authorised in the EU as well before they can be used there. Vehicle authorisations issued in the EU up to 31 December 2020 will remain valid in the UK if the vehicle is already in use here prior to that date.
From 1 January 2021 vehicles first authorised outside the UK will require an additional authorisation before they are first used in the UK. This system will be operated in accordance with the UK’s COTIF international obligations. This requirement should not cause disruption as, while additional vehicle authorisation is not currently mandatory in the UK, it is normally sought voluntarily to ensure compliance with the UK’s technical rules.