ON 12 OCTOBER the UK government published its advice to rail operators concerning the steps necessary in the event of the UK leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019 without any formal agreement and transition agreement – the so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit. The British advice to a large extent mirrors formal advice given by the EU Commission to the remaining 27 member states on the same topic on 27 February.

The UK Government advice says ‘…we would still be able to pursue bilateral agreements with EU countries to maintain cross-border services’. Whether such bilateral agreements could be agreed in time and accommodate EU law is unclear.

The UK and EU advice agrees that for UK-based operators with operating licences (Part A and Part B certificates), plus drivers of cross-border trains with licences issued by the UK Office of Rail and Road, then in the event of ‘no-deal’ these licences will need to be reobtained in a country that remains in the EU before operation is possible in the EU.

The UK advice says however that non-UK issued driver licences would be accepted in the UK for two years following 29 March 2019. Rail vehicles used for cross-border services (passenger and freight) and approved in the EU before 29 March 2019 will continue to retain approval in the EU and the UK. The advice is clear that any freight wagon maintenance for vehicles used in the EU will need to be arranged by Entities in Charge of Maintenance (ECM) with certificates issued in the EU, as those ECM certificates issued previously in the UK will no longer be accepted.


Inevitably most UK media focus has been on the possible impact of this situation on Eurostar services. In mid-September it was reported that Nathalie Loiseau, the French government minister for European affairs, said that in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit both trains and planes from the UK would be unable to enter France. A few days later at the InnoTrans exhibition Modern Railways asked Guillaume Pepy, Chief Executive of SNCF (French Railways) and majority shareholder in Eurostar, what was being done to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Mr Pepy said that while SNCF did not want disruption to services, adding ‘…no-one wants it (Eurostar) to be endangered’, he did not want to get into the political discussion around Brexit. He confirmed that SNCF was ‘working with the French and British governments looking at issues such as operator safety certificates’.

As we went to press Eurostar declined to answer specific questions concerning the current operator/safety certificates and driver licensing situation. The current ‘Part A’ generic ‘European portable’ certificate demonstrating safety authority for Eurostar International Ltd is visible on the ORR website and runs until April 2022. A ‘Part B’ certificate exists for the UK. Modern Railways understands that Eurostar’s 60-odd British-based drivers (out of around 180 in total) have licences issued by the ORR. Following publication of the UK government advice Eurostar told Modern Railways ‘At this point in time, we plan and expect to maintain services on the existing basis and timetable following Brexit. We are having constructive conversations with the governments concerned on Brexit.’ Keith Fender