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Euro-MPs back new compensation rights for bus, coach and boat travellers

European bus, coach and boat passengers would have the same compensation rights as air passengers under proposals put forward by the European Parliament's transport committee today.

The new tougher rules will give travellers by bus, coach and boat new rights on compensation for delays and cancellations, payments in the event of accidents and assistance for disabled passengers. The proposed rules are similar to those set out in the EU air passenger rights charter. They are to be put to a vote by European Parliament as a whole in July.

MEPs beefed up two regulations that had been significantly weakened, in scope and effect, by the European Council. The Transport Committee's key demands are:

  • financial compensation or re-routing in the event of delays of more than two hours for bus and coach journeys, and more than 90 minutes for boat travel,
  • unlimited liability and advance payment obligation for bus and coach companies responsible for passenger injury or death,
  • liability for loss of baggage of up to €1,800 per passager (for bus and coach companies),
  • free assistance for disabled passengers and people with reduced mobility, and
  • no exemption for small passenger boats (carrying over 12 passengers) and regional coach services.

Compensation for delay or cancellation

Maritime transport companies would have to reimburse the ticket price or provide re-routing to passengers whose journey is delayed at departure for over 90 minutes, unless the company could prove that the delay was caused by weather conditions or extraordinary circumstances beyond its control. Passengers would also be able to choose to receive the reimbursement in the form of flexible travel vouchers. Passengers who are obliged to stay overnight at their port of departure would be entitled to the reimbursement of their hotel fee, up to a limit of €120 per night.

For bus and coach passengers, alternative transportation or a total refund of the ticket would have to be offered if the delay at departure were to exceed two hours. Passengers would be entitled to an extra compensation of 50% of the ticket price if no alternative transportation were offered. For delays in arrival of over two hours - if caused by the driver's negligence or a technical fault of the vehicle - passengers would have the right to compensation amounting to half the ticket price, on top of the full reimbursement of their ticket.

Bus, coach and boat passengers whose journey is delayed for more than an hour would be entitled to snacks, meals, refreshments and regular updates on the evolution of the situation.

Liability for injury and death

If a passenger were injured or died as the result of a bus or coach accident, the transport company would be obliged to pay, within fifteen days, an advance on the compensation "in proportion to the harm suffered". Injured passengers would be immediately entitled to first aid assistance, accommodation, food, clothes, transport, and, in the event of death, funeral expenses.

To protect small road transport firms, MEPs ensured that the regulation would not require companies to pay if the accident were caused by circumstances beyond their control. Advance payments would only have to be made if "there is prima facie evidence of causality attributable to the company".

Rights of people with disabilities or reduced mobility

People with reduced mobility could not be refused the right to board a ship, bus or coach except where their safety would be endangered. MEPs voted to ensure that a passenger's disability may not be used as a reason for denying him or her the right to board.

Free assistance would have to be given to disabled people in ports, on condition that the carrier or the port operator is notified when the reservation is made or at least 48 hours before boarding.

Bus and coach operators would have to provide their staff with specific training to enable them to assist disabled passengers properly. If the company were unable to offer such assistance (for instance if there were only one crew member), the disabled passenger would be entitled to ask to be accompanied, free of charge, by a friend capable of providing the assistance required.

Urban and suburban routes exempted

MEPs agreed that EU Member States should be allowed to exclude urban and suburban bus services from the regulation's scope, on condition that they offer a comparable level of passenger rights. But MEPs did insist on including regional services, unless these are already integrated with other urban or suburban services which ensure a high standard of passenger rights.

For maritime and inland waterway travel, MEPs voted to include all boats covering distances of over 500 metres, carrying over 12 passengers and operated by at least 3 crew members. The Council wanted to exempt boats carrying less than 36 passengers - a position also favoured by the EPP group - but a majority of committee MEPs concluded that the "36+" limit would exclude too many vessels from the legislation. Excursion and sightseeing tour boats other than cruisers, however, should be exempted from the rules, MEPs agreed.

Negotiations on the scope of the regulations will continue over the coming weeks with Council representatives, but MEPs are hopeful that an agreement will be reached in time for the plenary vote in July.

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