This afternoon, after more than three years of work, the European Parliament and representatives of EU Member States reached a deal on significantly improving the rights of rail passengers all over Europe.
Rail passengers will finally have high protection levels comparable to air passengers. With better consumer rights and more clarity for rail companies, this could be the starting point to promoting more competitive and environmentally-friendly rail travel. This is what the EPP Group insisted on in the negotiations.
“Ahead of the European Year of Rail in 2021 and in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, which is profoundly affecting the whole sector, it was urgent to make rail travelling more attractive. We cannot, on the one hand, argue that rail transport is the future and, on the other hand, block changes which would help regain passenger confidence and give rail operators the means to carry out the necessary reforms”, said Brice Hortefeux MEP, EPP Group negotiator on the new law.
Thanks to this reform, if a train is delayed for more than 100 minutes, passengers may take another train or bus connection, with a guarantee to be reimbursed by their initial train company. Access to rail services for persons with disabilities and reduced mobility will be improved by shortening the period of notification of their planned travel from 48 to 24 hours. Moreover, it foresees designated spaces for the transport of bicycles on every train, while under the present rules there is no such obligation.
“More protection and clear rules will encourage more passengers to opt for rail transport, not only in their home countries but all over Europe. This reform makes environmentally-friendly rail travel more attractive and will increase the competitiveness of rail transport with air and road transport”, added Hortefeux.
In order to ensure the same level playing field with other modes of transport, a clause of force majeure can be activated in case of exceptional circumstances such as natural disasters, terrorism or pandemics. This clause does not exempt railway undertakings from organising re-routing, reimbursing tickets and providing assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.