Thursday

23rd May 2019

MEPs to boost rights of rail passengers

  • The new rules on railway services are aimed at cutting down train delays and boosting passenger rights (Photo: EUobserver)

MEPs are set to adopt new rules on rail passengers, calling for minimum standards on compensation for both domestic and international journeys.

Parliamentarians also proposed deadlines for liberalisation of railways across Europe, and were to debate common criteria for train drivers in Tuesday's plenary session (27 September).

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The parliamentary transport committee adopted several major amendments in the so-called Third Railway Package, proposed by the European Commission.

Belgian liberal MEP Dirk Sterckx, rapporteur on the rail passengers rights bill, had widened the scope of the legislation to domestic services, while the proposal from the Commission covers only international passengers.

He argues the original draft was confusing, as "passengers on the same train would fall under different rules", pointing to an example of people travelling from Brussels to Liverpool that would be covered by both international rules when sitting in Eurostar, and by different criteria for the domestic service from London to Liverpool.

Compensations

Under the new rules, the railway services providers would also be considered responsible for wrong information on the internet or any leaflets on trains' timetables. They are also called upon to provide different ways of ticket distribution, without any additional charge for using internet or phone.

Passengers would be eligible to ask for compensation for the loss of luggage, delays, missed connections or cancellation of services, unless it was caused by exceptional weather conditions, natural disasters or the passengers themselves.

The minimum compensations for delays are supposed to cover 25 percent of the ticket's price for a 60 minute delay, 50 percent for 120 minutes and 75 percent for 180 minutes of delay.

The railways should also provide meals and overnight accommodation in cases of longer delays.

The proposal calls for better conditions for disabled persons and excludes fare discrimination for their accessibility of railway services.

Liberalisation of railways

In Wednesday's vote on the proposals from the railway package, MEPs are also set to agree on common rules for train drivers.

"At the moment, Belgian driver can't continue with the train to Germany and must be replaced by a German colleague at the border, which usually causes delays. The same training and driving licence criteria would bring this practise to an end", said the spokesman of the transport committee.

The liberalisation of railways, as proposed by the commission and amended by German centre-right MEP Georg Jarzembowski, has proved to be a far more controversial issue.

Mr Jarzembowski argues there should be clear deadlines for opening up of railway networks for both international and domestic passenger services, by 2008 and 2012 respectively.

However, the move is likely to meet resistance from some member states and their MEPs, like France or central and eastern European countries, where the state companies still occupy the preferential position on the railway services market.

The parliament is expected to approve the three proposals, and refer them back to the commission, which will then evaluate the proposed amendments and prepare an impact assessment.

Member states still have to give the green light to the legislation.

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