Interview: The French NSA, EPSF, is ready for the coming changes

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Interview with Florence Rousse, Director of EPSF, the French National Safety Authority

EPSF and ERA can count on many years of excellent cooperation already. Two days ago this cooperation became even more elaborate. Do you share the same view?

That’s right. The relationshipbetween ERA and EPSF has been very fruitful for many years. France is one of the EU Member States that starts the new processes now while others chose to wait for June 2020. Of course, new processes always need to mature. Nevertheless, I’m confident that we’ll manage this bigchange for the railway sector successfully together, through close relationships and a sufficient dose of flexibility.

What will this ‘new’ relationshiplook like?

The cooperation agreement between ERA and EPSF formalises our existing relationship and is the balanced framework for our future collaboration. It includes in particular the possibility for mutual assistance: ERA requesting assistance or specific expertise from EPSF and EPSF requesting specific expertise from ERA in turn. In addition, two possibilities are

offered in order to cover ERA’sneeds: from EPSF’s experienced team or from a single expert designated by EPSF to be included ina ‘Pool of Experts’.

What makes you confident/worried?

The scope of the changes introduced since 16th June in the European railway sector is historical. This may lead to some uncertainties during the management of the first application files. It’s both a challengeand an opportunity to find a common position taking into account cultural differences, language issues and different working habits of experts based everywhere in Europe. The 11 learning cases on which mixed EPSF- ERA teams worked during the past months should facilitate a smooth transition. ERA gained a better understanding of our past and present experience and of our French way of doing, and EPSF got acquainted with the new European processes.

Which elements are key for a successful transition?

Even though rules have been harmonised, and the One-Stop Shop has been created to simplify the applications for the industry, flawlessly functioning interfaces between the NSAs, the applicants and ERA are essential. Where in the past only two parties were involved (applicant and NSA), we now need to adapt to new processes with multiple parties (applicant, multiple NSAs, ERA). In order to facilitate a

mutual understanding of the needs and limitations of all parties and to mitigate contingencies, it is extremely important that applicants continue to be allowed anticipated personal discussions even before requesting ‘pre-engagement’ orsubmitting their application through the One-Stop Shop.

Are we now moving in the right direction, meaning, to the benefit of the railway sector?

While railway companies will benefit from the new simplified processes, for us at EPSF, for other NSAs and for ERA, there is still a lot of work to do. First of all, we should ensure smooth coordination and good cooperation in the calibration and the follow-up of residual concerns between certification and supervision processes, and take advantage of the certification process to focus on improvements to the safety management system of the railway companies. In addition, EPSF will negotiate bilateral agreements on border sections with its neighbouring countries. These border sections, though outside the national territory, may still be considered under a single national procedure, which is a potential benefit for the railway sector. Finally, knowing the enormous efforts the sector is taking to assimilate the new processes, I wish that further evolution of TSI rules be limited for a while, and that sufficient time for compliance be given to the companies, thus avoiding significant burden on the railway sector.

(red/European Union Agency for Railways Newsletter)

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