Rolling stock

14.11.18

Grayling ‘sees no reason’ to follow European standards in post-Brexit rolling stock regulation

The transport secretary has categorically opposed the following of European Union rail standards when Britain leaves the EU, arguing he can see ‘absolutely no reason’ to follow the regulations.

Speaking to the Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee this morning, Chris Grayling said Britain’s departure from the EU gives the government a freedom of choice to create a regulatory system, following rules that suit the UK’s unique railway system whilst also being able to reject the EU regulations that do not suit the nation’s infrastructure.

“I do not want us to remain part of the European Rail Regulatory Body,” Grayling told the Lords. “I see no need at all. Our rail system has a whole variety of ways that differs from that of continental Europe. If UK businesses want to operate within the European Union after we’ve left, they are free to fulfil European standards of the goods and standards they offer. But I can’t see any reason why we would need to.

“We have a rail network that is separate of that to the rest of Europe, unlike most other countries. I can’t see why we would want to be part of something that sets standards internationally. We can follow those just as we choose to follow, but we can set our own standards for our own network.

“If somebody wants to run a freight train that travels from the UK across the continent, they will have to have a wagon that meets the standards to do so; but it doesn’t mean that every wagon that operates in the UK has to meet a continental standard.”

Concerns were raised by Sub-Committee chair Lord Whitty and other committee members as to the impact this would have on manufacturers of rolling stock in the UK – such as Bombardier, Alstom, and Siemens – in future deals with the 28 EU members states who are part of the body.

But Grayling refuted the claims, arguing the international companies operating in the UK have experience in creating bespoke rolling stock fit for requirements on several continents around the world.

“Isn’t it desirable that we seek the best and most cost-effective way of modernising our rather individual railway system, without being constrained by other people’s standards?” Grayling asked.

“Why should we have to follow a European standard, that doesn’t work for the United Kingdom, and would have regulations that would, for example, prevent us from providing level access to disabled people to the trains on HS2? That is a European rule, it’s there for circumstances in the EU—I can see absolutely no reason on earth why we should try and follow that.”

The transport secretary noted that the departure from the European Union will remove the ability of regulations to “lock us in” to European standards.

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Image credit: PA Images

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