Chapter 12: Mutual recognition, standards and interoperability
Originally, the railways in Europe were set up as national systems with significant technical and operational differences, making international rail transport difficult, expensive and less competitive with respect to other modes. As part of the ongoing rail reform initiatives at European level (Di Pietrantonio and Pelkmans, 2004), enhancing interoperability of the railway system has been given priority since the mid-1990s in order to contribute to its competitiveness (European Commission, 1996). An initial measure towards ensuring interoperability of the European rail networks was taken by the Council of the European Union in 1996, when it adopted Council Directive 96/48/EC of 23 July 1996 on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system. The aim of this Directive was to achieve interoperability of the European high-speed rail network at the various stages of its design, construction, gradual introduction into service and operation. Similar arrangements were put in place for the conventional trans-European rail network, initially through Directive 2001/16/EC and now according to Directive 2008/57/EC. Furthermore, this Directive requires that the scope be progressively extended to the entire railway system in Europe.
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