PLANS FOR a new Europeanwide railway safety agency were announced this week by the European Commission.
The move is a further step in the Commission's drive to harmonise European rail standards, following proposals for 'inter-operability' of rail rolling stock, infrastructure and operating systems.
The Commission says that the agency will not act as regulator but will provide advice and guidelines on rail interoperability and safety.
No one at the Railway Inspectorate was available to comment on the plans. But a Railway Industry Association spokesman said that the Agency idea had been mooted for some time and was at an early stage.
'The plans have the potential to have a far reaching effect, but it depends on what shape they take, ' he said, adding that it could take several years to establish.
Britain has been wrestling with the introduction of the first directive covering high speed lines, originally planned to have become law by April 1999.
Following consultation with industry last year, draft legislation is due shortly from transport civil servants.
After another shorter consultation, the regulations will be finalised in March, and go before Parliament later this year.