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News (10/09/2013)

Passenger rights: good implementation but efforts still needed for protection of rail travellers

The European Commission has released a report assessing how Member States authorities and the railway industry are applying rules for the protection of rail passengers. While the protection of rail passengers has improved since the Regulation is applicable, around 61% of all national long distance services and 83% of regional and suburban services are not yet applying the full range of rail passenger rights because Member States opted for transitional periods and exemptions. This practice could become an obstacle to the achievement of a complete rail passenger rights regime in the EU.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "Every year, almost 8 billion passengers use the train to go to work, for business trips or leisure. We need to make sure that all of them, notwithstanding the type and length of rail journey they undertake, are protected by European Passenger Rights legislation."

Regulation (EU) No 1371/2007 , which entered into force on 3 December 2009, sets up minimum rights for rail travellers and imposes a number of obligations on rail companies concerning their responsibility towards their customers. The Regulation allows Member States to opt for transitional periods and exemptions from major provisions of the Regulation for the following rail services:

  • domestic rail;
  • urban, suburban and regional rail;
  • services or journeys where a significant part of the service, including at least one scheduled station stop, is operated outside the EU.

Overall, both national authorities and rail companies have made good efforts to ensure the protection of rail passengers in the EU, notably on international services. Where services are not exempted or when Member States cannot opt out, the rules have been well applied and enforced. However, the Member Statess extensive use of exemptions risks creating an empty shell for national services.

It is contrary to the policy objectives of a single European Railway Area. Patchy application of the Regulation also means a lack of level playing field between railway companies, depending on the type of services they provide.

Some Member States also need to improve their enforcement activities. And a few railway companies need to ensure that their liabilities in case of accident are sufficiently covered.

The European Commission considers that the extensive use of exemptions by some Member States is an obstacle for the fulfilment of the Regulation's objectives.