The European Passengers’ Federation looks back on an eventful year with completely new challenges. Covid-19 has presented us with a new set of tasks. The annual general meeting took place in Düsseldorf at the beginning of March. This was already marked by concerns about the health of the participants, many representatives of the 37 member federations refrained from attending or delegated their vote to the few representatives present. The EPF conference in Strasbourg, planned for June, was our first “Corona victim” and had to be cancelled or postponed until 2021, although the organization was almost complete and registrations had already been received.
The main policy focus of the year was the amendment of the EU Rail Passenger Rights Regulation. In countless personal contacts, especially with the MEPs, representatives of the EU Commission and the respective Council Presidencies, the passengers’ point of view was presented again and again. Several times we succeeded in pushing back passenger-unfriendly exemptions. In the end, however, a strong lobby managed to get them reintroduced through the concept of force majeure. Whether in the end the positive elements in the area of through tickets, bicycle transport and improved rules for passengers with reduced mobility represent an overall improvement we will see in the course of national implementation.
It will be important how the upcoming new regulations in the area of passenger rights for long-distance coaches, regular ships, flights and especially multimodality are designed. Throughout the year, EPF was challenged to take a position on consumers’ rights in almost all modes of transport. Extensive questionnaires on air passenger rights, bus and coach and water passengers were processed. EPF was interviewed several times as an expert by consultants commissioned by the EU Commission. The ITS directive is currently under review as well, which is relevant in terms of facilitating EU-wide multimodal information and ticketing.
The consequences of the pandemic are massive in the transport sector. All companies are under financial pressure and are trying to claim governmental support. EPF has been involved in many ways to ensure that government support is conditional and beneficial to passengers. Throughout the year, for example, airline ticket reimbursement has been an issue when flights are cancelled. We also took part in Round Table discussions organised by DG MOVE and DG COMP, to discuss with all relevant stakeholders the way forward towards a sustainable recovery strategy for European aviation.
In addition to its policy work, EPF has been busy with research projects as well. In the beginning of the year, SHOW (shared automated mobility in cities) and INDIMO (inclusive digital mobility solutions) started, while HiReach (innovative solutions to cope with transport poverty) and Decidium (citizen engagement in urban mobility) finished near the end of the year. The TMaaS (Traffic Management as a service) project will end soon as well, but a new project, AURORA (Urban Air Mobility) just kicked off.
Shift2Rail is the essential instrument of the entire sector for the further development of rail transport. EPF was commissioned to accompany various projects and bring in the customers’ perspective. It has become clear that there is a great need for this. “What’s in it for the passenger?” must be a key question against which all developments can be measured. Part of this work consisted of two virtual workshops with great participation also from our member unions. “How can IT solutions improve passengers’ travel experience” was a unique possibility to give input from a customer’s point of view.
The EU has declared 2021 the Year of Rail. Whether this will be just an awareness campaign or will actually push environmentally friendly mobility remains to be seen. In December, the Commission presented its “Plan for Green, Smart and Affordable Mobility”. Evaluating this and working towards passenger and environmentally friendly improvements is one of the priority tasks for 2021.