An approvals procedure for railway vehicles is a lengthy business

TÜV NORD expert explains how manufacturers can accelerate the process by means of good preparation and management

Hamburg: Before railway vehicles can set wheels on the track, they have to undergo an approvals procedure. The technical manager for railway vehicle projects at TÜV NORD, Christoph Held, explains how manufacturers can accelerate the process by means of good preparation and management. These and other questions will also be in the spotlight from 20 to 23 September at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin. 

To obtain approval to place new railway vehicles on the market, manufacturers have to use conformity certificates to show that they meet the requirements of the EU single market. These conformity certificates are the end result of assessment procedures in respect of European and national requirements which are performed by Notified Bodies (NoBo) and Designated Bodies (DeBo). Also required is an independent safety assessment by an Assessment Body (AsBo). What all these bodies have in common is that they are subject to the most stringent requirements regarding specialist and organisational expertise. Depending on the member state in question, they may have to be recognised to carry out their work by a national accreditation body and/or through relevant recognition by a national authority (in Germany this is the EBA). TÜV NORD has been recognised by all three of these bodies.

Prior to the type-approval process, the requirements to which the railway vehicle is subject have to be recorded by the applicant and the applicable requirement points according to TSI/NNTR1have to be defined . The production of evidence then follows to prove the fulfilment of the defined requirement points by the respective vehicle. Subsequently, the evidence is subjected to the actual conformity assessment, which follows immediately after the approvals procedure. “This kind of approvals procedure is complex and comprehensive,” Christoph Held explains. He monitors both converted and brand-new railway vehicles on their journey to type approval.

Both national and technical requirements are relevant to type approval for new railway vehicles, where the latter are prescribed for the “Vehicle” sub-system by TSI Loc&Pas (locomotive and passenger carriages), TSI NOI (noise), TSI PRM (accessibility for the disabled and people with restricted mobility) and TSI SRT (safety in railway tunnels). The catalogue of mandatory criteria is a long one, as this example from the TSI Loc&Pas demonstrates:

  • Structure and mechanical parts
  • Inter-vehicle interactions and rolling stock gauges
  • Brakes
  • Passenger-specific aspects
  • Environmental conditions
  • External lighting and acoustic and visual warning equipment
  • Drive and electrical equipment
  • Driver’s cab and interface between driver and machine
  • Fire safety and evacuation
  • Maintenance
  • Documentation for operation and maintenance

“These simple headings conceal complex questions which all serve to keep the passengers, the train crews, the vehicles themselves and, last but not least the overall rail network safe,” Christoph Held explains. “We deal with very detailed questions, some of which involve very complex and protracted inspections. Which is why we advise manufacturers and suppliers to factor in enough time for the approvals procedure.” For instance, the complete conformity assessment for a whole multiple unit can take two years: It takes time for the applicant to get the documentary evidence together, just as it does for the required tests to be carried out.

The better the preparation for the approvals procedure and the more detailed and clear the system descriptions submitted, the quicker the inspection process will conclude. The more clearly the order of the vehicles state which countries they are supposed to operate in, the easier it is to take any national regulations into account right from the start of the procedure. To this end, the manufacturers must make sure certain things are in place: They are responsible for planning and managing the processes, which relate to the approval of railway vehicles. “It also makes sense to involve a conformity assessment body like TÜV NORD so that they can use their expertise to support the approvals process,” Mr Held says. “Rework can be avoided, which will save time and money and rule out any possible lack of clarity and misunderstandings.”

He admits that the regulations of the European single market have not made the procedures any easier. “But we’re dealing here with the safety of vehicles which will carry many people many millions of kilometres or transport goods through dense clusters of infrastructure over the course of several decades.”

Manufacturers and suppliers will be able to find out about the approvals procedure at the InnoTrans trade fair from 20 to 23 September in Berlin. TÜV NORD will be located at stand 620 in CityCube A. TÜV NORD Bildung will be presenting its locomotive driver training programme in its mobile driving simulator at Stand 0/375 of the Freigelände Süd.



TSI: Technical Specifications for Interoperability

NNTR: Notified National Technical Rules

* The RAMS methodology (as defined in the EN 50126 standard) is designed to prevent errors at the planning stage. RAMS consideration is about the specifications of safety systems in the railway system. However, this can only be achieved if reliability and maintainability requirements are constantly met and, for example, maintenance work is monitored. The RAMS process also considers possible hazards as well as the effects of a failure on the functionality of the overall system.

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