Rail passenger rights in the EU - guide30 June 2010
by eub2 -- last modified 30 June 2010
The European Commission has launched a Europe-wide publicity campaign in 23 languages to inform passengers about their rights when travelling by rail or air.
Why were rail passenger rights introduced?
The third railway package legislation of 2007 opened the market for international passengers rail transport on 1 January 20101, and also - under the so-called Public Service Regulation2 - better defined the legal and financial framework for awarding public service contracts related to inland transport in order to ensure citizens 'quality for money' for public transport services all over Europe.
In such a context, where a single market is emerging, measures to promote users' rights are essential to grant the consumer adequate protection and the rail industry a level playing field based on quality services.
What are the basic rights common for all Member States?
Under the Rail Passengers Regulation 1371/2007, common minimum rules apply throughout Europe, for instance in case of delays or cancellation of trains. In addition, since rights are meaningless unless passengers are aware of them and know how to pursue them, the railway companies are obliged to inform passengers of their rights and obligations and to establish complaint boards.
However, Member States may, on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, grant a temporary exemption on their purely domestic railway traffic for a period of no longer than five years, which may be renewed twice for a maximum of five years on each occasion (making a maximum of 15 years) and a permanent derogation for urban, suburban and regional services.
Nonetheless, certain provisions of the Regulation will be mandatory for all railway traffic: rules on availability of tickets; liability of railway undertakings for passengers and their luggage; minimum level of insurance for railway companies; right to transport for passengers with reduced mobility; information on accessibility of rail services; and obligations on passengers' personal security.
Hence, through such a combination of core rights and possible national exemptions, the Regulation manages to reconcile the objective of granting basic rights to passengers across the EU with the reality of heterogeneous conditions of railway services in the Member States.
What rights do rail passengers with a disability or reduced mobility have?
The EU rail passenger rights legislation ensures that passengers with reduced mobility can travel in a way that is comparable to other citizens.
Railway companies and station managers have to establish non-discriminatory access rules for the transport of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, including for example the elderly.
Railway companies, ticket vendors and tour operators are also obliged to inform on the accessibility of rail services, on the access conditions and its reasons on request.
Railway companies shall provide disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility with assistance on board, as well as during boarding and disembarking from a train, all free of charge. Assistance is provided on condition that the railway company, the station manager, the ticket vendor or the tour operator with which the ticket was purchased is notified of the person's need for such assistance at least 48 hours before the assistance is needed.
The disabled person or the person with reduced mobility should arrive at least one hour before the published departure time or the time at which all passengers are asked to check in or, if no time is stipulated, at least 30 minutes before the published departure time or the time for check-in.
In case of total/partial loss or damages to mobility equipment used by the disabled passenger or passenger with reduced mobility, the railway company has to grant full compensation.
What rights to information do rail passengers have?
Since December 2009, rail passengers in Europe have to be informed comprehensively and in the most appropriate format. Particular attention has to be paid in this regard to the needs of people with auditory and/or visual impairment. Such information encompasses:
* Which general conditions apply to the contract?
* What is the fastest trip and which has the lowest fares?
* Are there facilities for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility as well as passengers with bicycles while entering the train and on board?
* Are there seats in smoking and non-smoking compartments, in first and second class as well as couchettes and sleeping carriages?
* Will the journey be disrupted or delayed?
* What kinds of services are offered on board?
* Where and how can passengers reclaim lost luggage and submit their complaint?
Information during the journey:
* Which services are offered on board?
* Which is the next station?
* Is the train delayed and, if yes, when it is expected to arrive?
* Which main connecting services are available?
* What has to be taken into account in terms of security issues?
Are rail passengers entitled to bring their bikes with them on the train?
The railway companies are obliged to enable passengers to bring their bicycles onto any train, if they are easy to handle, if it does not adversely affect the specific rail service, and if the rolling-stock so permits.
What happens if a train journey gets delayed or cancelled?
Once a delay of at least one hour is foreseeable, the passenger has the choice between:
* Reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket or for the part of the journey not made and for the part already made if the journey is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger's original travel plan. Furthermore, in this case the passenger is eligible for a return service to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity.
* Continuation of the journey or re-routing under comparable conditions to the final destination at the earliest opportunity or to the final destination at a later date at the passenger's convenience.
In case the passenger continues his or her journey despite a delay, he or she is entitled to compensation.
The minimum compensation for delays is:
* 25 % of the ticket price for a delay of 60 to 119 minutes
* 50 % of the ticket price for a delay of at least 120 minutes
The compensation of the ticket price has to be paid within maximum one month after the submission of the request. The traveller is not entitled to compensation under certain conditions, e.g. if the cancellation, delay or missed connection has been caused by circumstances which the carrier could not avoid, in spite of having taken all due care required in the particular case.
The company has the duty to inform travellers of delays and cancellations of trains as soon as such information is available.
In case of any delay of at least one hour, passengers have to be offered free meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time.
Moreover, the railway company has to offer free hotel or other accommodation as well as transportation between the railway station and the place of accommodation, in cases where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary due to the delay.
If the train is blocked on the track, the railway company has to arrange transport from the train to the railway station, to an alternative departure point or to the final destination of the service, where and when physically possible.
If the railway service cannot be continued any more, the company has to organise alternative transport services as soon as possible.
What happens if a passenger gets killed or injured?
If a passenger is killed or injured during a train accident, the train company is required, within 15 days, to advance payments that meet the costs for the immediate needs of the affected passenger or of his/ her dependants - that shall be at least €21,000 in the event of passenger's death.
How can rail passengers complain?
Rail companies are obliged to set up a complaint handling mechanism for the rights and obligations covered by the Regulation and to make the contact details and working language(s) of such a complaint body widely known to passengers.
The complaints have usually to be answered within one month; in justified cases, the passenger has to be informed by what date within a period of less than three months from the date of the complaint a reply can be expected.
What is the role of National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs)?
In each Member State there will be an independent body (the "NEB Rail"), which will ensure that rail travellers fully enjoy the rights provided under the Regulation, monitoring the compliance of railway undertakings, station managers and ticket vendors with its provisions, applying penalties, where appropriate.
The Commission has been informed about the designation of NEB Rail in 23 Member States out of 25, which have a railway system. The contact details of the NEB Rail will be made available on the Commission's website.
What other passenger rights are in the pipeline?
The Commission is keen to extend passenger rights to all transport modes, which is why it presented in December 2008 two proposals to protect the rights of passengers travelling by water or by bus/coach. This is in line with the objectives set out in the Communication from the Commission "Strengthening passenger rights within the European Union", of 16 February 20053.
The protection of passengers within the whole European transport system will be completed once the European Parliament and the Council will adopt passenger rights' legislation for bus and coach transport4 as well as for maritime and inland waterways transport5. Once in force, the regulations should give these passengers basic common rights throughout the European Union.
1 : Directive (EC) 2007/58 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 23 October 2007, amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure.
2 : Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road, and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 1191/69
and (EEC) No 1107/70.
3 : Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council "Strengthening passenger rights within the European Union" [COM(2005) 46 final
4 : Proposal for a Regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible [COM(2008)817
5 : Proposal for a Regulation concerning the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws [COM(2008)816].
Source: European Commission