Rail passengers should be fully protected no matter where they travel in the EU. The Commission also wants to guarantee adequate passenger information and to significantly improve the rights of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. At the same time, the Commission's proposal is proportionate and recognises that rail operators can, under strict circumstances, be exempted from having to compensate passengers in the event of delay.
Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: "Thanks to the EU passengers have a full set of rights no matter where they travel in the EU. Yet there are still too many European train travellers and commuters who aren't properly informed about their rights. That is what we want to fix with our new proposal. I am confident that our initiative will strengthen the sector, striking the right balance between the protection of travellers and the competitiveness of the rail sector."
The Commission's proposal updates the existing rules on rail passenger rights in five key areas:
1. Uniform application of the rules: long distance domestic and cross-border urban, suburban and regional services can no longer be exempted from the application of passenger rights rules. Today, only 5 Member States fully apply the rules, while others have put in place varying degrees of exemptions. This significantly deprives passengers from their rights.
2. Information and non-discrimination: improved provision of information about passenger rights, e.g. by printing it on the ticket. Passengers who use connected services with separate tickets must be informed on whether their rights apply to the whole journey or only to the different segments. Discrimination on the basis of nationality or residence is prohibited.
3. Better rights for persons with disabilities or reduced mobility: mandatory right to assistance on all services and full compensation for loss or repair of mobility equipment. Relevant information has to be given in accessible formats and rail staff must receive disability awareness training.
4. Enforcement, complaint-handling procedures and sanctioning: clear deadlines and procedures for complaint handling and clear responsibilities and competencies of national authorities responsible for the application and enforcement of passenger rights.
5. Proportionality and legal fairness: a "force majeure" clause will exempt rail companies from having to pay compensation in the event of delays caused by natural catastrophes, which they could neither foresee nor prevent. Under the current rules, rail companies have to pay compensation even when faced with such events.
The Commission's proposal must now be examined and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council (i.e. the EU Member States) before entering into force.
The single market for passenger rail transport is currently in development with the planned introduction of competition onto domestic markets. A high quality of rail services and the protection of users' rights are essential to fulfil the objective to increase the share of rail transport in comparison to other modes of transport.
The European Union is the only area in the world where citizens are protected by a full set of passenger rights – whether they travel by air, rail, ship, bus and coach. EU legislation for Rail Passenger Rights entered into force in December 2009.
Under the European rules, passengers can for instance in some Member States be entitled to financial compensation if their train arrives at destination with a delay of 1 hour or more. Delayed passengers can also entitled to meals and refreshments (proportionate to the waiting time), and accommodation if they have to stay overnight.
All information can be found on ‘Your Europe' website, where applicable passenger rights are translated in all EU languages. A smartphone app is also available, and can be downloaded for free for Google Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows Phone.
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