Connecting Europe Days 2024, Europe’s mobility flagship event, took place on 2-5 April at the SQUARE in Brussels, Belgium. EPF was invited as a speaker in Debate 9: Passenger Rights and TEN-T.

The Connecting Europe Days conference brought together more than 3.200 participants from over 80 countries. Participants included Ministers, politicians, financial institutions, industry representatives, transport stakeholders and the European Commission and related agencies.

EPF was invited as a speaker in Debate 9: Passenger Rights and TEN-T, together with representatives from Airport Council International (ACI Europe), the International Road Transport Union (IRU), SNCF, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), European Disability Forum (EDF) and the Austrian Agency for Passenger Rights (APF).

The aim of the session was to identify to which extent the implementation of the EU passenger rights legislation has benefited from the TEN-T implementation, why it remains so relevant and also the challenges still to be addressed.

Below is a brief overview of some of the questions that were raised during the debate and EPF’s responses.

What matters to you/your organisation as regards passenger rights?

EPF represents public transport users at EU level. As such, campaigning for better passenger protection is one of our core objectives. As the weaker party to the service contract, passengers must be treated fairly when things go wrong with their journey and their rights must be adequately protected. This is important not only to enhance consumer protection but also in view of achieving a modal shift to public transport and multimodality – considering that the willingness of potential passengers to use (multimodal) sustainable transport options for their (complex) journeys is compromised by fears that, in the event of disruption, they may not be able to get to their planned final destination at the earliest available opportunity without paying additional charges.

Are disruptions inherent in transport networks? Will there be fewer disruptions with the completion of the TEN-T?

To facilitate a shift to rail and multimodal modality, availability of an attractive offer, in terms of travel time & cost, is key. So is reliability! TEN-T has led to investments in point-to-point transport, which resulted in shorter travel times for passengers. High quality infrastructure will likely also positively impact on reliability … on the condition that sufficient attention goes to (preventive) maintenance and resilience. Furthermore, the transport network is only as strong as its weakest link. A plan for a high-speed network must therefore be complemented by good local and regional connections, whilst thoughtfully designed hubs and integrated timetables are also needed to facilitate optimal use of network capacity and optimal connectivity for passengers.

Will the deployment of advanced traffic management systems and travel information services result in a greater reliability of transport networks?

Advanced traffic management systems can contribute not only to safer, but also to more reliable transport services, in that they can free up some additional capacity which in turn could provide some leeway to manage disruptions and allow for some timetabling flexibility. Furthermore, they are a key enabler for synchro-mobility – a flexible, synchronised and efficient intermodal network whereby switches between modes can be achieved (almost) seamlessly. Considering that disruptions can not always be avoided – at least it is crucial to inform all relevant stakeholders and, of course, passengers – and to mitigate the consequences of a disruption and find a solution to have, and share, real-time information – as mandated by the revised Delegated Regulation on MultiModal Travel Information Services.

To which extent do the new Commission legislative proposals on passenger rights (of December 2023) contribute to a better protection of passenger rights and include lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis?

EPF welcomes the new proposal on multimodal passenger rights as a first step in the right direction. Unfortunately, for now, the scope is very limited and for “combined” tickets (i.e., not explicitly advertised as a “single contract”), better protection is needed. Likewise, the new proposal on enforcement is welcome – but lacks game-changing elements such as: stronger mandates for NEBs, truly dissuasive sanctions in case of non-compliance, mandatory participation in ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) bodies. Finally, two issues originally meant to be tackled by the “Better Protection” initiative have not yet been addressed – protection for air passengers against the risk of a liquidity crisis or an insolvency & reimbursement in case of cancellation by air passengers due to a major crisis (more info here).