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Railway Undertakings

Licensing – FAQs

You want to establish a railway undertaking?

Any railway undertaking that wishes to operate passenger or freight services in Germany must first obtain a licence (see Section 6 of the General Railways Act).

If you want to establish a railway undertaking in Germany, you must first select a location for your registered office and a legal form, e.g. GmbH (private limited company). It is recommended that you consult a notary about this. The undertaking must be registered with the competent trade office. In addition, the competent local court must enter the undertaking on the commercial register, stating its organizational purpose, and the share capital has to be deposited.

Which authority issues the licence?

As a rule, the federal state in which the undertaking is based is responsible. The federal state government determines the authority to which applications for licences are to be submitted. Undertakings in which the Federal Government holds a majority stake must submit their application to the Federal Railway Authority. The provisions governing the issuing of licences are the same at all licensing authorities. How quickly you obtain a licence will depend on how quickly all the requirements are met and how quickly this is substantiated.

What requirements does a railway undertaking have to meet?

  1. The applicant, as an entrepreneur, and the persons in charge of the management of the undertaking must be of good repute,
  2. the applicant, as an entrepreneur, must be financially fit,
  3. the applicant, as an entrepreneur, or the persons in charge of the management of the undertaking must have the required professional competence,

thereby providing a guarantee of safe operational control of the railways.

As proof of good repute, a certificate of good conduct can be submitted.

As proof of financial fitness, you must submit your undertaking’s balance sheet or annual accounts.

In addition, undertakings require a safety certificate in order to operate public rail services. To this end, the undertaking must provide evidence to the Federal Railway Authority that it

  1. has established a safety management system (SMS) that meets at least the requirements of Article 9(2) and (3) of Directive 2004/49/EC and
  2. meets the special requirements for safe operation for staff and rolling stock on the relevant network or the individual lines.

Proof of professional competence can also be furnished by providing confirmation that rail operations managers have been appointed.

How do I get a safety certificate?

An application for a safety certificate must be submitted to the Federal Railway Authority. The Authority will decide on the application no later than four months after it has received all the documents necessary for it to take a decision.

What documents have to be submitted to obtain a safety certificate?

The Federal Railway Authority has published a guide describing the process for obtaining a safety certificate. This guide lists all the information that has to be provided when submitting an application and states what supporting documents have to be submitted. It is available to download.

What does a licence contain?

A licence is valid for a maximum of 15 years.

A licence is issued for the provision of rail services for the carriage of passengers and/or freight. The licence may include requirements or conditions. The authorities charge fees for issuing a licence. The level of costs is based on the schedule of fees of public authorities that is in force at any given time. The Federal Railway Authority currently charges a lump sum of € 5,000 for a licence.

What insurance cover do railway undertakings require?

Railway undertakings are required to take out and maintain civil liability insurance with an insurer authorized to provide such civil liability insurance in Germany, in order to cover personal injuries and damage to property caused by accidents during operations. The minimum sum insured is 20 million EUR per loss event and must be available at least twice for each insurance period. More details can be found in the Railway Civil Liability Insurance Regulations.

For which rail network is the licence valid?

A licence issued in Germany and not otherwise restricted authorizes the holder to use all public railway lines in Germany. It is also valid throughout the European Community and the European Economic Area (EEA). However, the right to free access to foreign rail networks is currently restricted to rail freight services.

Are foreign licences also valid in Germany?

If you have already been granted a licence to operate rail services in a Member State of the European Community, you can also use this licence to provide services in Germany. However, here too, the right of foreign railway undertakings to free access to the German rail network is restricted to freight services, as described above.

What requirements do foreign railway undertakings have to meet?

Before using German railway infrastructure for the first time, railway undertakings based abroad must prove to the Federal Railway Authority that they are licensed. To do so, they must submit a licence to provide rail services in the standardized format prescribed by the European Commission.

In addition, proof must be furnished that civil liability insurance has been taken out in accordance with the provisions of the German Railway Civil Liability Insurance Regulations.

Like all railway undertakings, foreign undertakings also require a safety certificate before using the rail network. An application for a safety certificate can be submitted to the Federal Railway Authority. Undertakings that have already been issued a safety certificate in a Member State of the EU can apply for a national certificate (Part B of the safety certificate).