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Brussels, 5 May 2011
Facilitating the exchange of rail data – Frequently asked questions
The European Commission has adopted today a regulation on standards in the field of telematics applications for rail passenger services. These standards, known to the rail sector as "technical specifications for interoperability" (TSI) relate to the subsystem "telematics applications for passengers" (TAP) of the trans-European rail system and define how stakeholders must interact with travel-related data in the field of rail transport.
Why do we need common standards for rail travel data?
Unlike in the aviation sector, travel across Europe by rail is not always supported by readily available tickets and billing systems or by up-to-date travel information. While other transport modes already make use of mobile devices for travel information and electronic ticketing, this is not yet possible with rail due to the lack of interoperable systems relying on computerised and harmonised data.
What are these standards about?
These standards have been developed with the support of railway experts, are recommended by the European Railway Agency and have been made binding under a legal act adopted by the Commission. The standards define how stakeholders must interact with rail travel data. The data exchange covers timetables, tariffs, information on conditions of carriage before and during the journey, as well as other data.
What is the main objective of this initiative?
The exchange of computerised and harmonised data will make it possible to increase transparency and will make it easier to plan, reserve and make journeys by train in Europe. It will also strengthen passengers' protection and enhance informed consumer choice by making it possible for rail companies and ticket vendors to fulfil their obligations under Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 on rail passengers' rights and obligations (1).
When can the first concrete results be expected?
Based on these standards, suitable communication systems between rail companies and ticket vendors will be developed, while rail data will be made available to all players, such as rail companies, infrastructure managers and ticket vendors. They will have at their disposal harmonised travel data, which they can use to develop IT tools and applications. For example, the data could be used to book tickets for international rail journeys, plan a European journey crossing national borders, or display the latest information on the internet or in the train itself. However, this will not happen overnight. The different stakeholders have only just begun the design of communication systems based on the standards adopted today. Experience shows that this will take some time and 2016 seems a realistic target date for the first applications to be up and running.
Will these standards suffice to issue a single ticket for a journey covering several European countries or several transport modes?
No. The computerised information and reservation systems that will be developed on the basis of these standards will not necessarily supply "integrated tickets", meaning a single ticket for a trip involving more than one transport mode, nor "through tickets", meaning a single ticket for a rail trip involving several operators and several countries. The possibility to deliver integrated or through tickets will depend on a balance between, on the one hand, the obligation to exchange data as laid down in today's regulation, and on the other hand, each actor's own commercial interest in a market open to competition. It is worth recalling that information, reservation and ticketing systems are essential features of rail operators' commercial strategy and are strictly related to the type and frequency of rail services they decide to supply.