On 29 April, World Mobility and Accessibility Day, a new regulation on rail passenger rights was endorsed by the European Parliament. An important legal symbol during the European Year of Rail, the Renew Europe Group particularly welcomes provisions in the regulation to improve access to rail services for people with disabilities and reduced mobility. The notification period for these journeys, which allows disabled and reduced mobility persons to be better taken care of both at the station and on board, has been reduced to the day before departure. The right to re-routing has also been strengthened to ensure that passengers get to their destination.
Moreover, a mandatory through-ticket has been introduced for long distance or regional rail passenger services when provided by the same rail operator, and obliges rail companies to provide dedicated spaces for the transport of bicycles. The Renew Europe Group has also ensured that in the case of a force majeure, most of the rights enshrined within this new regulation remain protected, including the rights to reimbursement and assistance.
José Ramón Bauzá Díaz MEP (Ciudadanos, ES), Renew Europe spokesperson in the Parliamentary Transport Committee for this dossier, said: “Today, during the 2021 European Year of Rail, we move towards better and stronger European rail transport. The Renew Europe Group has achieved a crucial milestone for millions of passengers who travel by train every year. EU rail transport passengers and operators and have been heavily hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, strengthening rail passengers’ rights is essential to restore demand and recover the transport sector”.
Rail passengers will now benefit from high levels of protection comparable to those of air passengers. While EU Member States are authorised to exclude regional and suburban trains from the obligation to compensate for delays, these lines are nevertheless required to assist people with disabilities and reduced mobility or to re-route passengers in the event of a long delay.
Moreover, if no re-routing options are communicated to the passenger within 100 minutes after the departure time of the delayed or cancelled service or the missed connection, the passenger is entitled to purchase new tickets from alternative providers of public transport, which the railway undertaking will have to reimburse.
This new regulation should come into force within two years, and the reduced notification time for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility is planned for 2026 at the latest.
Finally, the regulation includes a key priority for the Renew Europe Group: the establishment of a common European form for reimbursement and compensation requests, which will help avoid complications for passengers faced with cancellations and delays, and make it easier for passengers to file requests when issues do arise.