On January 25. 2021, the European Council of Ministers adopted the revised Regulation on rail passengers’ rights. EPF welcomes the efforts put in this new regulation and, in particular, the strengthening of passengers’ rights in certain areas. Rail companies are now encouraged to increase their offer in through tickets, which will be mandatory if connecting trains are run by a sole operator, for example where a journey involves a connection between a regional and a long distance train. This is a first positive step. Furthermore, stronger rights for persons with reduced mobility will apply in the future and from 2023, the right to receive assistance in trains and stations will apply to all regional and long distance services with trained staff on duty. The advance notice to be given by persons with reduced mobility to require assistance when boarding a train will be reduced from 48 to 24 hours.

Nevertheless, EPF remains skeptical on the extent to which the new text is customer friendly enough as to attract more passengers to rail and make them satisfied with their journeys. One point that still raises concerns is Force Majeure. We believe this can be perceived as an exemption for rail undertakings to escape their obligations and shift the risks to the passenger, as weaker part of the contract.

We hope that this text and the efforts of the 2021 Year of Rail can inspire Member States to work further on improvements in their rail systems, creating more user-friendly solutions.

The next step to the legislative process is the second reading of the Regulation by the European Parliament.