Royal Charter
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  1. Licensing
  2. Membership & Registration
  3. Qualifications & CPD
  4. Publications & Resources
  5. Get Involved
  6. News
  7. About

Royal Charter

Chartered status update


Results from our recent survey showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents believe the time is now right for us to apply for a Royal Charter and, as a result, Council has given approval for a formal vote to be taken on this matter at the reconvened AGM on Wednesday 15 May 2024 at 18:00 BST.

A charter provides formal recognition of the professionalism of our membership and would mark our pre-eminent expertise in global railway signalling, communications and train control. It would position us at the right level in future dealings with governments, other professional organisations and academia across the world.  

More information and FAQs covering all aspects of a Royal Charter are available below and those elligible to vote have had the opportunity to vote by proxy ahead of the AGM which was adjourned on Thursday 25 April. If you have voted by proxy and wish to change your vote, please contact us at with your changes and membership number.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at


IRSE members who are eligible to vote are those who have paid their 2023/24 subscriptions and are corporate members (Associate Members AMIRSE, Members MIRSE, Fellows FIRSE and Honorary Fellows HonFIRSE)

General questions about Royal Charters

What is a Royal Charter?

A UK royal charter is a legal document that gives organisations a special level of independence and recognition. It is granted by the Privy Council acting on the authority of the sitting monarch. Royal charters have been in existence since the 13th Century, and have been granted to a broad range of institutions, including universities, banks, and charities.

Why are we considering petitioning for a Royal Charter?

Charters are reserved for organisations that work in the public interest and are able to demonstrate pre-eminence, stability and permanence in their particular field. With the increase in our global engagement, Council has decided the time is right for us to seek formal recognition of our professional membership and mark our status as a unique major player in global railway control. This is essential for our growth globally and places us in a significantly stronger position with government and other stakeholders across the world.

How is eligibility defined?

According to the guidance notes issued by the Privy Council:

  • The institution concerned should comprise members of a unique profession, and should have as members most of the eligible field for membership, without significant overlap with other organisations.
  • A proportion of the corporate members of the institution should be qualified to at least first degree level in a relevant discipline.
  • The institution should be financially sound and able to demonstrate a track record of achievement over a number of years.
Is there a list of organisations that have a royal charter?
Does having a royal charter make IRSE associated with the UK monarchy?

No. A royal charter is granted by the current monarch but the association is distant. There is no obligation to have a royal patron, for example, and the addition of Royal in the title would not apply to IRSE. The IRSE respects the right of each member to hold their own opinion on all such matters and respects the government and heads of state globally.

Is this something that is just for the UK and Commonwealth countries?

Incorporation by royal charter directly impacts on the organisation’s relationship with the UK Government and the Companies Act 2006. Because we have been incorporated in the UK since 1912, we are obligated to meet those standards, which are mirrored in many countries around the world as best practice.

How will the royal charter link to the IRSE licensing system?

The charter will not impact on the licensing scheme. The licensing scheme operates under the IRSE Enterprises Limited Liability company, which would not change.

Questions about the process

How long is the process likely to take?

Previously, organisations have taken about a year to complete all the documents. It is then down to the privy council’s own workload to progress the application. If members give approval for us to petition, we will be able to start the process immediately. We already have a list of organisations who support our petition, so that will help us complete the process more quickly.

What is involved and who will be responsible for the project?

The project will be led by the Chief Executive with support from the a subgroup of Council including the President and Vice Presidents. All documentation will need to be approved by the Council before the Membership are asked to endorse it.

How will members be able to vote on this matter?

All voting members (AMIRSE, MIRSE and FIRSE) with an active IRSE membership will have the opportunity to vote for or against petitioning for a royal charter at the reconvened 2024 AGM on 15 May at 18:00 BST, either in person or online if you are not able to attend in person.

Is gaining a charter guaranteed?

No. We need to demonstrate that the Institution and its membership are worthy of this form of recognition. Council believes that we have a good chance of success, but it is not a guaranteed outcome.

What if the attempt fails? Will there be any repercussions?

Petitions do not fail, but they can be referred. We may then seek to apply to again in future.

Would we have to change the name and branding of IRSE if we gained a royal charter?

We would be under no obligation to change our name. Some organisations, such as the Institution of Railway Operators and the Institution of Highways and Transport, added chartered to the front of their name. But many other professional engineering institutions, including the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, have not. Members would have the chance to vote on any proposed changes.

Questions about the benefits of a royal charter for the IRSE

What are the benefits of having a royal charter?

Achieving chartered status symbolises honour, tradition and the enduring legacy of an institution. It confers independent legal personality on an organisation, signifying excellence, expertise and professionalism, and will further recognise and endorse the talent and expertise of our membership. Chartered status is understood and recognised worldwide and will position us at the right level in our future dealings with global governments, other professional organisations and academia.

How will it benefit the Institution outside the UK?

The significance of holding a royal charter is recognised by most countries. Having a charter elevates our status within the industry worldwide, and will officially recognise our unique role within the field of railway signalling and communication systems.

Would gaining a royal charter mean the IRSE can issue chartered engineer status to its members?

The IRSE is already able to issue chartered engineer status to its members by virtue of its licence agreement with the Engineering Council UK. Incorporation by royal charter for the IRSE will not impact on this activity. More information is available at

Questions about the financial implications of this proposal

How much will IRSE have to pay to get a charter?

The process of petitioning for a royal charter is free. The costs are those associated with producing the appropriate documents and responding to any additional questions asked during the process. There is a small amount of lost opportunity cost, but most of the work is no different to putting together a strategy document, business plan or an annual report.

How much will the IRSE have to pay each year to retain chartered status?

The granting of a royal charter is an award to the organisation in perpetuity. There is no ongoing costs or additional financial burden.

What extra resources and scrutiny would royal charter incorporation have on IRSE?

There is no additional resource implication on the IRSE. The governance remains the same and there is no additional reporting to another body.

Will my fees increase due to the royal charter?

No. There are no additional costs associated with being incorporated by royal charter.