Official Journal of the European Union

C 221/64

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the certification of train crews operating locomotives and trains on the Community's rail network

(COM(2004) 142 final — 2004/0048 (COD))

(2005/C 221/14)

On 28 April 2004 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 71 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the abovementioned proposal.

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 17 January 2005. The rapporteur was Mr Chagas.

At its 414th plenary session (meeting of 9 February 2005) the Committee adopted the following opinion by 127 votes to 25 with 26 abstentions:

1.   Introduction


The present proposal forms part of the third railway package, which was adopted by the European Commission on 3 March 2004. The other components are:

amendment of Directive 91/440/EEC: liberalisation of international rail-passenger transport (COM(2004) 139 final);

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on international rail passengers' rights and obligations (COM(2004) 143 final);

Proposal for a Regulation on compensation and quality requirements for rail-freight services (COM(2004) 144 final);


Commission Communication on further integration of the European rail system (COM(2004) 140 final);

Commission staff working paper on gradually opening up the market for international passenger services by rail (SEC(2004) 236).


The first railway package (also called the infrastructure package) came into force on 15 March 2001 and had to be transposed into national legislation by 15 March 2003. It comprises the following components:

amendment of Directive 91/440/EEC, including free market access for international rail freight on the trans-European rail freight network by 15 March 2003 and liberalisation of all international rail freight by 15 March 2008 (1);

extension of the scope of the Directive on a European licence for railway undertakings (amendment of Directive 95/18/EC) (2);

harmonisation of the provisions governing the allocation of railway-infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification (replaces Directive 95/19/EC) (3).


In October 2003 the European Commission took nine Member States to the European Court of Justice for failing to notify the transposition of the first railway package into national law. By May 2004 five countries' notification had still not been received and two Member States had transposed only some of the provisions into national law.


The second railway package was published in the Official Journal of the European Community on 30 April 2004 and has to be transposed into national law by 30 April 2006. It comprises the following components:

amendment of Directive 91/440/EC: bringing forward free market access for international rail freight to 1 January 2006 and liberalisation of national rail freight, including cabotage, from 1 January 2007 (4);

Directive on railway safety in the Community (5);

Regulation establishing a European Railway Agency (6):

amendment of the Directives on the interoperability of the high-speed rail system (96/48/EC) and the conventional rail system (2001/16/EC) (7).


The first and second railway packages provided the legal basis for establishing a single rail-freight market. The measures encompass market access, the licensing and safety certification of railway undertakings, access to infrastructure and the calculation of charges for its use, the creation of a legal framework for rail safety, and measures for ensuring the technical interoperability of the rail system.


As the EESC has already pointed out in its opinion on the second railway package (8), this new legal framework makes it necessary to completely re-organise the sector and establish new authorities and remits.


The social provisions regarding the training and working conditions of personnel carrying out safety-critical duties are inadequately addressed or not addressed at all in this framework.


The European social partners in the rail sector — the Community of European Railways (CER) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) — signed two European agreements on 17 January 2004 on the following subjects:


Introduction of a European train driver's licence for drivers engaged in cross-border services;


Certain aspects of the working conditions of train crews engaged in cross-border services.


The present proposal partly reflects the social partners' agreement on the introduction of a European train driver's licence.


The EESC has been informed by the European Commission that the European social partners have formally applied for the agreement on working conditions (working and rest periods) to be implemented in the form of a Council Decision. This application is currently being examined by the Commission.

2.   European Commission's proposal


The need to improve interoperability and staff management is the reason given by the Commission for its draft Directive. The aim is to make the authorisation of railway undertakings easier at the same time as maintaining a high level of safety and guaranteeing the free movement of workers.


The Commission also quotes the European social partners' objectives such as:

to guarantee a high skills level for train crews in order to maintain and enhance safety levels; and

to reduce the risk of social dumping.


The Commission is proposing a certification process for train drivers based on uniform minimum European standards. Train drivers working on international routes are to be certified first by 2010, followed by all other drivers working on national routes by 2015.


According to the Commission, the first step will involve around 10 000 drivers in the Community and the second around 200 000 drivers.


The Commission is also proposing a certification process for other train staff indirectly involved in driving the train. However, the draft Directive does not contain any specific provisions on this matter and in particular does not contain any provisions on the skills levels required of other train staff. Account is to be taken of the principles laid down in the Directive. The skills requirements are to be defined later by the European Railway Agency or in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability.


The draft Directive makes provision for a two-part certification process:


European driving licence, which is issued by the competent authorities, is recognised throughout the Community, is the property of the train driver, and attests to compliance with basic requirements and the acquisition of basic skills;


harmonised complementary certificate, which is issued by the railway undertaking, remains the property of the undertaking and attests to specific knowledge relating to the undertaking or infrastructure.


The competent authorities and the railway undertakings are to keep registers indicating the respect qualifications and their renewal as well as the suspension and amendment of the licenses and the harmonised complementary certificates.


Three categories of train drivers are proposed: (A) shunting locomotives and work trains, (B) passenger trains, and (C) good trains.


The minimum age is to be 20, though this may be lowered to 18 when drivers only work nationally.


The draft contains provisions about amending and renewing licences and harmonised complementary certificates and carrying out periodic checks to ensure that holders continue to meet the conditions set, and provisions about their withdrawal and the possibilities for appealing against such decisions. It also deals with inspections and penalties.


Also contained in the proposal are provisions on access to training, examinations, and the assessment of the quality of training systems and procedures.


Annex I deals with the Community model licence and complementary certificate, while Annexes II to VII describes drivers' duties, medical/psychological examinations and professional qualifications.


The European Railway Agency is to be asked to submit a report by the end of 2010 in which it will also have to examine the possibility of introducing a smartcard.

3.   Assessment of the Commission proposal

3.1   Basic comments


The EESC basically welcomes the proposal.


Train drivers and other staff performing safety-critical tasks bear enormous responsibility for the safety of traffic, staff, passengers and goods. In a liberalised rail market common provisions must ensure a high level of skills.


Harmonised minimum provisions also make the cross-border deployment of staff easier (9). However, differences in Member States' operating systems and safety provisions more than anything else stand in the way of the cross-border deployment of staff and will continue to do so for many years yet. These differences plus the existence of different languages make considerable further demands on staff's skills.


The EESC also points out that a high level of skills and a certification process testifying to this help to ensure that the profession continues to enjoy recognition and remain attractive. This is important in a profession with unattractive working hours and less job security following the rise in temporary employment agencies. Undertakings in the road transport and inland waterway sectors are already complaining about the considerable difficulty in finding personnel. The aim of this Directive cannot be to cut down on training.


The traditional self-regulated railway undertakings have borne full responsibility for the training and skills levels of staff and the safe operation of services. This has led to a high level of skills and made the railways one of the safest modes of transport.


Care must be taken to ensure that the objective being pursued with this Directive leads to greater mobility among train drivers and discrimination-free access to training establishments and not to a situation where the quality of training as a whole deteriorates and the cost of training is passed on to the workforce.

3.2   Individual provisions

3.2.1   Scope and introduction of certification

The EESC supports the gradual introduction of certification for international and national traffic. This will make it possible for undertakings to stagger operations.

However, the timeframe laid down in Article 34 (2008-2010 for cross-border traffic and 2010-2015 for drivers operating nationally) is surprising. The certification of train drivers should take place before then given that the liberalisation of international freight traffic will have been in progress since 2003/2006 and national freight traffic is to be liberalised from 2007 onwards.

The EESC also welcomes the certification of train crews. Staff performing safety functions play an important role in rail safety. However, the proposed definition is incomprehensible: ‘Apart from the driver, any staff member present on board the locomotive or train and indirectly involved in driving the locomotive or train ….’ (Article 25). It would be better to talk of train crew members who perform safety tasks. The EESC thinks that it would be preferable for the Directive to also specify the tasks to be performed by this category of staff and the skills required.

3.2.2   Categories of train drivers

Three ‘driving licence categories’ are proposed — shunting locomotives and work trains; carriage of passengers; and carriage of goods (Article 4(2)). A distinction between passenger and freight traffic is not practical, and there is no substantive reason for such a distinction. The training and the actual work involved is no different. Separate certificates are to be issued to testify to knowledge of the locomotives used, but often the locomotives are the same. Two categories — based on safety requirements — are sufficient: locomotives operating on closed lines (marshalling yards, worksites) and locomotives operating on open lines (main-line train drivers).

The EESC also thinks it would be more appropriate to indicate the category on the driving licence and not on the harmonised complementary certificate.

3.2.3   Minimum age and professional experience

The draft Directive specifies a minimum age of 20, though a Member State may issue a licence valid only on its territory from the age of 18 (Article 8). In a number of Member States (10) the minimum age is 21. The Directive would result in a lowering of the minimum age, at least for cross-border traffic.

The EESC thinks that the minimum age should be set at 21. Cross-border traffic is more demanding and requires better qualified staff. This age requirement is also compatible with the option of being able to specify a lower age limit for national traffic.

The EESC would also welcome three years' professional experience as a national main-line train driver, before being engaged as a driver in international traffic. A similar provision for national traffic is already included in Article 10. In the case of railway companies who are offering international rail transport services only, the necessary experience of the drivers could be obtained in cooperation with other railway companies that offer national services.

3.2.4   Structure of the certification process

The Commission proposes a two-part certification process, viz. a European driving licence issued by the relevant authority and recognised throughout Europe and a harmonised certificate issued by railway undertakings. The reason given for dividing the process into two parts is that the uniform licence with smartcard that was originally planned is too complicated and costly to introduce.

The EESC agrees basically with the structure proposed by the Commission. However, the use of two documents could cause confusion. This is particularly so with infrastructure knowledge. A clear distinction should be made between knowledge of the operating and safety provisions applicable to a given infrastructure and knowledge of lines and localities. Whereas knowledge of the operating provisions applicable to one or several infrastructure networks should be certified on the driving licence, knowledge of lines and localities — which has to be regularly updated — would have to be certified on the harmonised complementary certificate.

The two-part certification process is possible for a transitional period. However, the ultimate aim is to issue a single document with smartcard which testifies to the holder's basic knowledge and knowledge relating to a specific undertaking, and this fact should not be lost sight of.

3.2.5   Accreditation of examiners and training establishments

The European Railway Agency is to have the task of drawing up criteria for the accreditation of trainers, examiners and training establishments. The EESC considers this to be a practicable solution, but thinks that the Directive is unclear on a number of points. It is not clearly stated which tests are to be carried out by an accredited examiner and which skills are to be certified by the railway undertaking itself, without an accredited examiner. And it is also not clearly stated that testing knowledge of a given infrastructure's operating and safety system is to be carried out by an examiner who has been accredited by the particular Member State.

3.2.6   Professional qualifications and medical/psychological requirements

The draft Directive's annexes list train drivers' duties, the general and specific professional knowledge required and the medical/psychological requirements. In general the Commission has followed the line taken in the European social partners' agreement on the introduction of a European train driver's licence.

The EESC welcomes the Commission's decision to base itself on the professional and medical/psychological requirements laid down by the social partners. This will guarantee a high level of skills from which traffic safety will benefit. The EESC broadly thinks that the necessary qualifications and requirements for a train driver's certification should be specified within the body of the Directive.

Amendments to the annexes are to be made by the committee of Member States' representatives, which is also to be responsible for the adoption of the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TIS). Consultation of the social partners is to be mandatory on matters relating to qualifications and occupational and health protection within the framework of the interoperability directives. Since the Directive's annexes on the certification of train crews are based on definitions of the European social partners, it is logical that these social partners should be involved in work on amending the annexes. The EESC insists on a provision to this effect in the Directive.

3.2.7   Periodic checks

Certain knowledge must be checked periodically to ensure that a licence or harmonised certificate can be kept.

With regard to the periodic medical check-ups, the Commission has followed the line taken in the European social partners' agreement.

The EESC would point to the need for psychological counselling after rail accidents involving people (which often means people committing suicide in front of trains). This has been overlooked in the Directive (Article 14 in conjunction with Annex III).

The proposal is too imprecise on the subject of the regular updating of line knowledge. It should be clearly specified that the certification of line knowledge lapses if the line has not been driven on for one year.

The Directive says nothing about the further training of train drivers at regular intervals in the field of general knowledge. This is a matter addressed in the European social partners' agreement. The EESC recommends that, in keeping with this agreement, the Directive should provide that basic aptitudes shall be developed and refreshed annually.

3.2.8   Withdrawal of licences

The Directive stipulates that train drivers are to notify the competent authorities if they no longer satisfy the conditions required to perform their duties. This is tantamount to drivers ‘handing themselves in’, which they cannot do. Only an accredited occupational doctor is able to take this decision and inform the undertaking. And it is the undertakings which must notify the authorities.

The Directive does not lay down the procedure for getting back a licence after it has been taken away.

4.   Proposal for a Directive on the certification of train crews and the European social partners' agreement on the introduction of a European driving licence


The EESC welcomes the fact that the European social partners — the CER and ETF — have acted themselves and have already proposed a system of licensing for train drivers operating on international routes.


The advantage of the agreement is that employees in undertakings that are CER members will be required to be highly qualified quite soon and that it will not be necessary to wait until 2010. These undertakings must not be penalised vis-à-vis undertakings which do not apply the agreement.


The EESC thinks that full account must be taken of the European social partners' agreement in areas where it overlaps with the scope of the Directive.


The European social partners' agreement assumes that the train drivers concerned always have some form of national certification, and therefore does not regulate this matter. This is based on traditional railway undertakings' many years of experience in cooperating on routes.


The European train driver's licence provided for in the social partners' agreement is an additional licence which testifies to the additional knowledge needed to drive on another country's infrastructure. This is issued by the undertakings and is the property of the undertakings.


The harmonised complementary certificate proposed in the Directive tallies more or less with the European train driver's licence.


The EESC asks the Commission to examine to what extent the European train driver's licence provided for in the social partners' agreement can be recognised as being equivalent to the harmonised complementary certificate for a transitional period in order to accommodate the undertakings which have already become active on this front. The Directive should contain a provision to this effect.


The EESC thinks that undertakings which have signed up to the social partners' agreement will be disadvantaged vis-à-vis undertakings using the Directive's system of certification insofar as further training in general professional knowledge is to be provided annually under the terms of the agreement, but this provision has not been included in the draft Directive despite being crucial for maintaining skills levels.

5.   Conclusions


The EESC welcomes the proposal for a Directive on the certification of train crews. It regrets that this social measure is being presented as the final link in a chain of European legislative provisions for liberalising the rail-freight sector.


Train drivers and crews have key roles to play in the field of safety. The certification of train drivers and crews must guarantee that they are highly qualified.


The EESC is concerned about the enormous time lapse between the complete opening-up of the market in rail freight and the deadlines for the introduction of certification and asks the Commission to take all possible steps in order to reduce this gap.


The EESC therefore calls on the Council and the European Parliament to remove the draft Directive for the certification of train crews from the third package and to handle it separately so as to avoid further delays. The European Parliament and the Council should adopt the Directive quickly and as a matter of priority.


In so doing, they should take full account of the EESC's opinion and the amendments proposed therein.


The EESC welcomes the European social partners' agreement on certain aspects of the working conditions of train crews engaged in cross-border services. It calls on the Commission to submit the agreement to the Council for a decision and recommends to the Council that it adopt the proposal.

Brussels, 9 February 2005.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND

(1)  Directive 2001/12/EC – OJ L 75 of 15.03.2001, p. 1 – EESC opinion – OJ C 209 of 22.07.1999, p. 22

(2)  Directive 2001/13/EC – OJ L 75 of 15.03.2001, p. 26 – EESC opinion – OJ C 209 of 22.07.1999, p. 22

(3)  Directive 2001/14/EC – OJ L 75 of 15.03.2001, p. 29 – EESC opinion – OJ C 209 of 22.07.1999, p. 22

(4)  Directive 2004/51/EC – OJ L 164 of 30.04.2004, p. 164 – EESC opinion – OJ C 61 of 14.03.2003, p. 131

(5)  Directive 2004/49/EC – OJ L 164 of 30.04.2004, p. 44 – EESC opinion – OJ C 61 of 14.03.2003, p. 131

(6)  Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 – OJ L 164 of 30.04.2004, p. 1 – EESC opinion – OJ C 61 of 14.03.2003, p. 131

(7)  Directive 2004/50/EC – OJ L 164 of 30.04.2004, p. 114 – EESC opinion – OJ C 61 of 14.03.2003, p. 131

(8)  OJ C 61 of 14.03.2003, p. 131

(9)  However, it should be stressed that the exchange of train drivers and crews at borders only takes a few minutes (e.g. eight minutes at the Brenner border crossing). Border stops in the freight sector are due more to other factors such as checking paperwork or inspecting rolling stock.

(10)  For example, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and Norway


to the Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee (in accordance with Rule 54 (3) of the Rules of Procedure)

The following proposal for amendment, which won more than a quarter of the votes cast, was rejected in the course of the discussions.




The proposal for a directive makes provision for a two-part certification process:

a European driving licence, recognised throughout the Community,

a harmonised complementary certificate, which attests to specific knowledge relating to the undertaking or infrastructure.

The directive also lays down provisions on the amendment and renewal of driving licences and harmonised complementary certificates, and provides for periodic checks to ensure that holders continue to meet the conditions set.

The purpose of the harmonised complementary certificate is to ascertain a driver's skill and familiarity with the line(s) in question.

There is therefore no reason to introduce an additional three-year probationary period for drivers engaged in international traffic, which, as point stands, would be on top of the two years which may be required for drivers to progress from the shunting locomotives category to the national mainline trains categories (passenger and goods trains).

This requirement, which would be tantamount to introducing a five-year probationary period, would reduce the value of the harmonised complementary certificate and conflict with the desire to facilitate cross-border interoperability. Its effect, or purpose, would be to stop the development and improvement of cross-border rail links.

Lastly, there is no need to introduce different requirements for train drivers working on national routes and those working on the international network, since the harmonised complementary certificate is, in any case, a guarantee of skill and familiarity with the network.

For these reasons, there is no basis for point and it should be deleted.

Results of voting

For: 59

Against: 100

Abstention: 11.