The proposals are a key part of the recast of the European Directive for Interoperability, which if approved by the European Parliament would give the European Railway Agency (ERA) a central role in the APS process for rolling stock in all member states. The European Directive for the Interoperability of Railways, as proposed in the Fourth Railway Package, aims to remove technical and administrative barriers in the railway industry, supporting the European Commission's strategic goal of creating a Single European Railway Area.

European transport commissioner Mr Siim Kallas welcomed the Transport Council's conclusions. "I am pleased to see Member States supporting this essential technical part of the Fourth Railway Package," he says. "This creates momentum for the completion of the Single European Rail Area and will contribute to the growth and competitiveness of the European railway market. This is a substantial achievement for the Irish Presidency but much work lies still ahead to make rail transport truly competitive compared with other modes."

While the Transport Council agreed on the proposals, some minor amendments were tabled by member states. These include the concept of defining an 'area of use' for a particular vehicle, and the option for national safety authorities to authorise vehicles destined to operate in only one member state.

The transitional period for implementing the proposals has also been extended, although Kallas stressed the importance of adopting a single-EU wide vehicle approval process as quickly as possible to boost competitiveness and promote modal shift. The Commission states that the proposed recast directive on rail interoperability has widespread support within the railway industry.

A key question now will be whether the Commission should keep the Fourth Railway Package as one, or separate it into the parts which can be easily and quickly approved and others which need more discussion and elaboration. The European Parliament is due to vote on the recast Interoperability Directive in November.