Rail passenger rights: Council agrees its position on updated rules
The Council today agreed its position on the proposed reform of rail passenger rights. The updated rules will improve the rights of passengers, in particular of those with disabilities or reduced mobility, ensure more uniform application of the rules and improve the provision of information. In addition, the new rules will raise passengers’ awareness and promote the use of ‘through-tickets’, which cover successive railway services operated by one or more companies. The proposal also creates a level playing field between transport modes by introducing a clause for exceptional circumstances (force majeure).
These new rules will strengthen the rights of all passengers, including those with reduced mobility. They will also provide clarity when there are delays and cancellations. At the same time, they will encourage rail companies to provide more and better services, which will increase the popularity of this environmentally friendly means of travel.
Sanna Marin, Finland’s Minister for Transport and Communications, chair of the meeting
The proposal revises the current regulation, from 2007, which applies to both domestic and international journeys and services.
The Council position (‘general approach’) creates clear rules and defines clear responsibilities with regard to the provision of rail transport services for people with disabilities or with reduced mobility, including in cases where stations are operated unstaffed and trains have no accompanying personnel. It clarifies the rules on compensation for loss of, or repairs to mobility equipment. Personnel providing help to persons with disabilities or reduced mobility will receive training so that they know how to meet the different needs. The Council has also aligned the text with the recent Accessibility Act to make sure the rules are consistent.
The scope of the regulation will be extended gradually to cover certain domestic services which member states may currently exempt from the provisions of the regulation, in particular in situations involving public service obligations. The gradual nature of the extension is necessary to ensure legal certainty and respect of existing contracts with operators. Member states will continue to be able to grant exemptions, for instance for urban, suburban and regional services (as opposed to long-distance services), in view of their special characteristics.
The text improves the provision of information on passengers’ rights. For example, a summary of the rights should be provided on the ticket; if this is not feasible, the passenger must be informed by other means.
A force majeure clause for rail services will bring legal clarity and create a more level playing field in relation to other modes of transport, for which such clauses already exist. Rail companies will not need to pay compensation for delays or cancellations in circumstances they could not have avoided, such as extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters or persons on the track. Rail staff strikes will not be covered by this exemption.
It will become easier for passengers to receive information on through-tickets. If a journey involves connections, the vendor must inform the passenger, prior to the purchase, whether the tickets constitute a through-ticket. Those tickets which are not through-tickets will have to state this explicitly. The text also clarifies rail companies’ and ticket vendors’ responsibilities and liabilities in cases where tickets are bought in a single transaction.
More detailed provisions on bicycles aim to bring clarity and make it easier to transport them on trains.
To improve enforcement of the rules, the text sets out more detailed complaint-handling procedures and deadlines.
Just like the Commission proposal, the Council position keeps the levels of minimum compensation in the event of delays unchanged.
As the proposal lays down a minimum level of protection, member states are free to introduce more stringent rules to protect passengers’ rights.
The revised regulation will be applicable two years after its entry into force.
The Commission presented the proposal in September 2017. The Council and the European Parliament will negotiate the terms of the final text.