Interoperability of the rail system within the Community

Directive (EU) 2016/797 sets out the conditions for achieving interoperability within the EU railway system.
It aims to facilitate, improve and develop rail transport services within the EU and with third countries, thus contributing to the completion of the single European railway area and the transition to more efficient types of transport.
The directive is one of three legislative acts covering the technical aspects of the fourth railway package, which aims to revitalise the railway sector and provide better service quality and more choice for passengers. It sits alongside Regulation (EU) 2016/796 on the European Railway Agency and Directive (EU) 2016/798 on railway safety.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directive was amended by Directive (EU) 2020/700 to extend the deadline for incorporating the content of the Directive into the national law of EU countries.

Legal act:
Directive (EU) 2016/797
modified by Directive (EU) 2020/700

Additional references:
Regulation (EU) 2016/796
Directive (EU) 2016/798
Regulation (EU) 2020/1530 amending Directive (EU) 2016/798

Consolidated acts:
23/10/2020 of Directive (EU) 2016/798

28/05/2020 of Directive (EU) 2016/797

Directive (EU) 2016/797

Subject matter and scope

  1. This Directive establishes the conditions to be met to achieve interoperability within the Union rail system in a manner compatible with Directive (EU) 2016/798 in order to define an optimal level of technical harmonisation, to make it possible to facilitate, improve and develop rail transport services within the Union and with third countries and to contribute to the completion of the single European railway area and the progressive achievement of the internal market. Those conditions concern the design, construction, placing in service, upgrading, renewal, operation and maintenance of the parts of that system as well as the professional qualifications of, and health and safety conditions applying to, the staff who contribute to its operation and maintenance.
  2. This Directive lays down the provisions relating to, for each subsystem, the interoperability constituents, the interfaces and procedures, and the conditions of overall compatibility of the Union rail system required in order to achieve its interoperability.
  3. This Directive shall not apply to:
    1. metros;
    2. trams and light rail vehicles, and infrastructure used exclusively by those vehicles;
    3. networks that are functionally separate from the rest of the Union rail system and intended only for the operation of local, urban or suburban passenger services, as well as undertakings operating solely on those networks.
  4. Member States may exclude from the scope of the measures implementing this Directive:
    1. privately owned railway infrastructure, including sidings, used by its owner or by an operator for the purpose of their respective freight activities or for the transport of persons for non-commercial purposes, and vehicles used exclusively on such infrastructure;
    2. infrastructure and vehicles reserved for a strictly local, historical or touristic use;
    3. light rail infrastructure occasionally used by heavy rail vehicles under the operational conditions of the light rail system, where it is necessary for the purposes of connectivity of those vehicles only; and
    4. vehicles primarily used on light rail infrastructure but equipped with some heavy rail components necessary to enable transit to be effected on a confined and limited section of heavy rail infrastructure for connectivity purposes only.
  5. In the case of tram-trains operating in the Union rail system, where there are no TSIs that apply to those tramtrains, the following shall apply:
    1. Member States concerned shall ensure that national rules or other relevant accessible measures are adopted in order to ensure that such tram-trains meet the relevant essential requirements;
    2. Member States may adopt national rules in order to specify the authorisation procedure applicable to such tramtrains. The authority issuing the vehicle authorisation shall consult the relevant national safety authority in order to ensure that mixed operation of tram-trains and heavy rail trains meet all essential requirements as well as relevant common safety targets (‘CSTs’);
    3. by way of derogation from Article 21, in the case of cross-border operation, the relevant competent authorities shall cooperate with a view to issuing the vehicle authorisations.

This paragraph does not apply to vehicles excluded from the scope of this Directive in accordance with paragraphs 3 and 4.



Placing on the market means the first making available on the Union's market of an interoperability constituent, subsystem or vehicle ready to function in its design operating state.


Article 8 - Conditions for the placing on the market of interoperability constituents

  1. Member States shall take all necessary steps to ensure that interoperability constituents are:
    1. placed on the market only if they enable interoperability to be achieved within the Union rail system while at the same time meeting the essential requirements;
    2. used in their area of use as intended and suitably installed and maintained.

This paragraph shall not prevent the placing on the market of those constituents for other applications.

  1. Member States shall not, in their territory and on the basis of this Directive, prohibit, restrict or hinder the placing on the market of interoperability constituents for use in the Union rail system where these constituents comply with this Directive. In particular, they shall not require checks which have already been carried out as part of the procedure for ‘EC’ declaration of conformity or suitability for use as provided for in Article 10.


Article 10 - Procedure for ‘EC’ declaration of conformity or suitability for use

  1. In order to establish the ‘EC’ declaration of conformity or suitability for use of an interoperability constituent, the manufacturer or his authorised representative shall apply the provisions laid down by the relevant TSIs.
  2. Where the corresponding TSI so requires, assessment of the conformity or suitability for use of an interoperability constituent shall be carried out by the notified body with which the manufacturer or his authorised representative has lodged the application.
  3. Where interoperability constituents are the subject of other legal acts of the Union covering other matters, the ‘EC’ declaration of conformity or suitability for use shall state that the interoperability constituents also meet the requirements of those other legal acts.
  4. Where neither the manufacturer nor his authorised representative has met the obligations laid down in paragraphs 1 and 3, those obligations shall be incumbent on any person who places interoperability constituents on the market. For the purposes of this Directive, the same obligations shall apply to any person who assembles interoperability constituents, or parts of interoperability constituents having diverse origins, or manufactures interoperability constituents for his own use.
  5. If a Member State finds that the ‘EC’ declaration has been drawn up improperly, it shall ensure that the interoperability constituent is not placed on the market. In such a case, the manufacturer or his authorised representative shall be required to restore the interoperability constituent to a state of conformity under the conditions laid down by that Member State.