The European Passengers’ Federation (EPF), which comprises of some 40 national and regional passengers’ associations covering more than 20 European states, wishes to draw your attention to its serious reservations about the Agreement concerning the recast of Regulation 1371/2007 on Rail Passengers Rights resulting from the recent trilogue.
EPF welcomed the position taken by the Parliaments in its plenary vote of 15th November 2018; this vote reflected the need for passengers’ rights to be properly protected in the event of disruptions to rail services.
The trilogue agreement of 1st October 2020 is far removed from the Parliament’s laudable objectives.
In a nutshell:
- Passengers with through tickets are not guaranteed protection if they are using the services of more than one railway undertaking over the length of the whole journey. The most recent version of the draft legislation only extends protection to a passenger with a through ticket where the services are provided by the same railway undertaking, or by undertakings with a common owner or which are wholly owned subsidiaries of one of the railway undertakings. For example, a passenger travelling from Lyons to Brussels, using SNCF to Paris and then onwards with Thalys (60% owned by SNCF) to Brussels, would not be covered if the first leg of the journey is disrupted, consequently missing the connecting onward service. These provisions disfavour those people making international journeys and are incompatible with the opening of the European rail market to new entrants: they are inappropriately restrictive, and counter to the broader European agenda.
- The exclusion of suburban and regional services from the scope of the Regulation ignores the needs of 9 out of 10 of Europe’s rail passengers: according to ERRAC, the sector’s European Technology Platform, this is the proportion of trips made by people using contracted rail services under Public Service Obligations. There is no reason to exclude daily customers as they deserve the same rights as other travelers. (Local urban transport is another issue and may need to be approached differently, although bearing in mind that many longer-distance journeys may include a local leg.)
- Exemption of domestic rail services by Member States for another 5-year period is difficult to understand. It will further restrict the scope of the text and limit the number of customers who are protected by the Regulation.
- Last but not least, the Force Majeure provision may encourage rail undertakings to evade their responsibilities to their customers and give rise to disputed, protracted interpretations. The lack of legal clarity will almost certainly further undermine public trust in the railway sector – which the Commission’s Consumer Markets’ Scoreboard reports as being one of the lowest for any sector – and its dependability as a means of transportation.
To conclude, it is difficult to argue that this (provisional) Agreement is strengthening the protection of rail passengers. We therefore invite the European Parliament to stick to its November 2018 vote and not let the self-interest of rail companies prevail over the basic principles of consumer protection. Robust rail passengers’ rights are key to restoring confidence in rail.
The “2021 European Year of Rail” awareness campaign and, moreover, the objective of the “Green Deal” suppose an ambitious modal shift from road and air to rail. This cannot be achieved without strong and effective rail passengers’ rights.