Brexit: France presents Channel Tunnel rail safety decree

Council of Ministers – Decree – Preparing for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union as regards rail safety in the Channel Tunnel

Paris, 13 February 2019

The Minister attached to the Ministre d’Etat, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, responsible for Transport, presented a decree on preparing for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union as regards rail safety in the Channel Tunnel.

The cross-Channel Fixed Link is a binational infrastructure whose construction and operation the French and British authorities entrusted, by a concession, to Eurotunnel (the concessionaire) in 1986. The Treaty of Canterbury, which is the founding act of this binational cooperation and the concession, established an Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) responsible for supervising, in the name and on behalf of the two governments, all matters concerning the construction and operation of the Fixed Link. Pursuant to European rail safety and interoperability legislation, the two states designated the IGC to fulfil the role of binational safety authority for the whole of the Fixed Link.

After the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, with the IGC no longer designated by two member states but one member state (France) and a non-EU country (the United Kingdom), the IGC would no longer be able to exercise the functions devolved under European law to a national safety authority.

Consequently, for France, the draft decree entrusts the tasks of a national safety authority for the Fixed Link to the Etablissement public de Sécurité ferroviaire (EPSF – Public Institution of Rail Safety). It is worth remembering that the EPSF already carries out these tasks on the national rail network.

Given the specific nature of the cross-Channel Fixed Link and the safety challenges in this type of infrastructure, the French authorities will ensure that the EPSF’s action is closely coordinated with that of the authority the United Kingdom will designate for itself, so that rail safety regulation is consistent over the whole infrastructure. This is key to guaranteeing a continued high level of safety for rail traffic in the Fixed Link.

The decree’s provisions will be able to be modified after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal to take account of a European Union act or an agreement with the United Kingdom defining the IGC’s future role in the safety of the cross-Channel Fixed Link.

In addition to these national measures, the [European] Commission has just adopted a proposed emergency measure in the event of no deal which will ensure the validity of safety authorizations for certain parts of the rail infrastructure for a strictly limited period of three months, to allow long-term solutions in line with EU law to be put in place. This measure relates to the Channel Tunnel in particular and will be conditional on the United Kingdom maintaining safety standards identical to EU requirements./.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published on 26/02/2019

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