European Railway Agency - ERA

Moving Europe towards a sustainable
and safe railway system without frontiers.

Analysis and Monitoring

One of ERA’s strategic objectives is to improve economic efficiency and societal benefits of railways. We therefore place high importance on collecting and delivering objective and credible evidence to support sound decision making.

Evidence is collected and used across the streams of work related to regulatory ex ante impact assessments accompanying Agency’s recommendations and opinions, ex post evaluations as well as analyses and studies for emerging topics. These rely on the monitoring of the Single European Railway Area, with data being regularly collected, checked for quality, analysed and used for deriving meaningful conclusions.

An important success factor for fostering the progress with interoperability and safety is played by the monitoring of the relevant organisations, in particular the national safety authorities and the notified bodies and the subsequent measures derived from this monitoring.

In line with the requirement of Regulation (EU) 2016/796, the Agency performs ex ante impact assessments of its recommendations and opinions forwarded to the EC. These follow the impact assessment methodology adopted by the Management Board, which is inspired by the EC Better Regulation Guidelines.

In a nutshell, we start all our ex ante impact assessments with a good understanding of the problem to be addressed, including its magnitude and the stakeholders affected, and look into possible alternative solutions. The Agency provides a transparent set of qualitative and quantitative evidence for the comparison of alternative options in order to facilitate decision making on the best suited option, taking into account the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders involved.

Ex ante impact assessments can be retrieved together with the recommendations and opinions that they accompany.

Once a recommendation or a set of recommendations have been in force for a specific period of time, ex post evaluations can be performed in order to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of the measures implemented and the possible needs for future action.

The Agency has an agile approach to managing its work priorities and resources. To this end, before including an activity in the programming document adopted by the Management Board, the Agency is conducting early impact assessments on the problems to be solved and the expected Agency contribution, as well as on the resources required.

Such high-level, early assessment impacts are taken into consideration when drafting the Single Programming Document .

As the Agency strive for providing evidence-based recommendations and opinions, a wide range of studies are carried out either by the Agency of by the consultants. Besides, ad-hoc studies are needed to steer Agency’s work programme its specific activities.

The Agency monitors the progress on the safety and interoperability of the EU rail system, as mandated by Regulation (EU) 2016/796. Every two years we present to the EC and publish a report on progress on safety and interoperability in the Single European Railway Area.

Safety of the SERA is notably monitored with the help of Common Safety Indicators (CSI), used in annual Assessment of Achievements of Common Safety Targets (CSTs). The information available in reports of National Investigation Bodies is also analyzed.

Interoperability of the SERA is monitored with the set of indicators derived from registers hosted by the Agency, annual reports of National Safety Authorities (NSAs) and databases of external partners.

The Agency also draws on the data collected by Eurostat and cooperates with Eurostat to prevent any duplication of work and to ensure methodological consistency between the CSIs and the indicators used in other modes of transport. An Administrative arrangement on Cooperation in Rail Transport Statistics was signed in 2016 in order to ensure a structured framework for this cooperation. 

We seek synergies and alignment with several monitoring and performance benchmarking initiatives at EU level – PRIME, RMMS, Rail Freight Corridors, Shift2Rail etc. 

Finally, ad-hoc surveys are run by the Agency to collect relevant evidence from stakeholders.

ERA monitors the performance and decision-making of national safety authorities through audit and inspections, on behalf of the EC, as mandated by Regulation (EU) 2016/796. The Agency is entitled to audit the capacity of national safety authorities to execute tasks relating to railway safety and interoperability as well as the effectiveness of the monitoring by national safety authorities of safety management systems of actors as referred to Directive (EU) 2016/798.

To this purpose, Agency’s Management Board has adopted in 2021 the updated policy, working methods, procedures and practical arrangements for NSA monitoring, repealing decisions n°161, 188, 21.

ERA supports the EC in monitoring the notified conformity assessment bodies through the provision of assistance to accreditation bodies and to the relevant national authorities, and through audits and inspections. In the case of notified conformity assessment bodies which are not accredited, the Agency may audit their capacity to meet the requirements laid down in Directive (EU) 2016/797.

The procedure for performing audits to the notified conformity assessment bodies has been adopted by the Agency’s Management Board in 2017.

The evidence collected alongside these monitoring activities is very useful in order to trigger actions for improving the effectiveness of the respective bodies in performing their tasks in the field of safety and/or interoperability.

Research and innovation at EU level is key to help to develop and realise EU policy. Rail plays a major role in achieving EU policy targets in the transport field, e.g. decarbonisation.

The Agency, as an independent European system authority, contributes to rail research and innovation ensuring where possible coherence of research projects with the EU framework.

The Agency is involved in research and innovation for the following reasons:

  • To influence research and innovation so that they support the policies and framework of a Single European Railway Area.
  • To provide the Commission and the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking with independent specialist railway knowledge. There are legislative requirements for ERA involvement in the Single Basic Act.
  • To advise as regards the System Pillar and contribute to defining target system in regulatory requirements;
  • To steer research and innovation according to ERA strategic statements.

The main Agency’s research and innovation objectives are:

  • To ensure that research results support and are consistent with the development of a Single European Railway Area (SERA).
  • To facilitate the development of cost effective approaches to meeting the railway essential requirements.
  • To close “open points” in the European Legal Framework.
  • To enable ERA recommendations to take full account of recent technological, social and societal developments.
  • To be informed of and influence developments in international rail research and innovation activities, cooperating with research bodies, where appropriate.