On 18 July 2018, the European Commission presented its Recommendation on guidance for the harmonised implementation of the European Rail Traffic Management System in the Union (ERTMS).

The harmonised implementation and interoperability is ensured by the European Union Agency for Railways, established by Regulation (EU) 2016/796. According to Article 19 of Directive (EU) 2016/797 on the interoperability of the rail system within the European Union, the Agency checks for compliance of the technical solutions envisaged with the relevant technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs) and gives its approval by means of a decision. However, the approval process to be followed by the Agency and the applicants is not fully described. Therefore, the Recommendation provides for guidance in order to strengthen the legitimate expectations of the applicant in the approval process and to facilitate the harmonised implementation of ERTMS in the Union.

In order to facilitate the approval process, the Commission, inter alia, invites the applicants to start a dialogue with the Agency before the formal submission of the application, so that the applicants and the Agency can reach an agreement on the schedule for the approval process including the respective deadlines taking into account the type of procurement and the authorisation process. The National Safety Authorities (NSAs)can collaborate and provide an opinion on the possible outcomes of the initial engagement. According to the Commission, the Agency should also use an anonymised issues list, as a tool for sharing experience and facilitating harmonised implementation in the field of ERTMS.

The guidance on the approval process set out in the Recommendation should not overlap with the conformity assessment performed by the assessment bodies described in Directive (EU) 2016/797 and in the relevant TSIs.