A legal symbol during the European Year of Rail, and on the day of World Mobility and Accessibility Day, a new regulation on rail passenger rights was endorsed yesterday by the European Parliament, meeting in plenary session. Renew Europe particularly welcomes the improved access to rail services for people with disabilities and reduced mobility. The notification period for their trip, which allows them to be better taken care of both at the station and on board, has been reduced to the day before their departure. The right to re-routing has been strengthened to ensure that passengers get to their final destination. Moreover, a mandatory through-ticket has been introduced for long distance or regional rail passenger services when provided by the same rail operator. Renew Europe also welcomes the obligation for rail companies to provide dedicated spaces for the transport of bicycles on each train. Renew Europe also ensured that the newly introduced force majeure does not affect any of the rights enshrined within the regulation, such as the right to reimbursement or the right of assistance, except for the right to compensation and only for specific circumstances, such as the pandemic crisis.
José Ramón BAUZÁ DÍAZ (Ciudadanos, Spain), spokesperson for Renew Europe in the Parliamentary Transport Committee for this dossier, declared : “Today, in the European 2021 Year of Rail, we move towards a better and stronger European rail transport. The Renew Europe Group has achieved a crucial milestone for the 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 the rail passenger`s rights and obligations 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 the 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 by 100 minutes from the departure time of the delayed or cancelled service or the missed connection, the passenger is entitled to conclude a new contract with other providers of public transport services by rail, coach and/or bus and the railway undertaking shall reimburse.
Rail companies will be obliged to offer to rail passengers a through-ticket service when travelling long distance service or regional rail passenger services.
The agreement includes new provisions making it easier to transport bicycles. Therefore, the new regulation will oblige railway companies, when refurbishing old equipment or when initiating procurement procedures for new equipment, to ensure that an adequate number of locations for bicycles are provided.
This regulation should come into force within two years and the shortening to 24 hours of the time available for people with disabilities or reduced mobility to request assistance is planned for 2026, at the latest.
Finally, the agreement includes a request dear to Renew Europe: the establishment of a common European form for reimbursement and compensation requests, which will avoid any complications for passengers faced with a delay or a cancellation and to avoid them to be discouraged by initiating a request.
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