The Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament organised on February 28 an “open event” on rail passengers’ rights and persons with reduced mobility (PRMs) with a view to the ongoing revision of the Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers’ rights.
Key representatives of the Parliament attended and participated in this event: MEP Olga Sehnalova and Kostadink Kuneva, co-Presidents of the Disability Intergroup, Elisabeth Kotthaus, DG Move, Head of Unit Passengers Rights, Lucy Anderson, MEP, shadow rapporteur for the IMCO committee, Michael Cramer, MEP, shadow rapporteur for the TRAN committee, Dr Alexander Vogt, assistant to rapporteur Boguslav Liberadzki, TRAN committee, and Gunta Anca, European Disability Forum. The aim of the event was to assess the recast (revised text) proposed by the European Commission for discussion in the Parliament.
The Commission underlined that the revised text of the Regulation will not allow any exemption for PRM provision by Member States. The text now includes a staff training obligation, as well as proposals intended to improve access to information and strengthened complaints’ handling procedures. Another important point of the recast is assistance at stations and throughout the journey, so that the railway system is accessible at any time. PRMs requiring assistance must give at least 48 hours’ notice or else the railway undertaking and station managers are only required to make ‘all reasonable efforts’ to assist.
Main issues discussed touched upon:
- The training provided by the railway undertakings for their staff requires an holistic approach to the specific needs of PRMs, covering both disability awareness and practical issues (EDF);
- There was a consensus on the need to include regional and suburban services in the scope of the revised Regulation, as well agreement on the unacceptability of the proposal that PRMs seeking assistance should have to give 48 hours’ notice of their requirement to ensure its provision.;
- There is a strong demand for accessible information and ticketing tools;
- There was also a consensus to ban a “force majeure” clause to avoid endless law cases as has happened with air carriers;
- The EDF representative insisted on strengthening the power of National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs);
- The huge amount of regional, national and European subsidies to rail justifies a comprehensive assistance for PRM in rail services.
Answering some issues raised by participants, MEP Liberadzki’s assistant said that a 24 hour prenotification notice would be guaranteed and that competent authorities would have to audit the accessibility of railways at the national level in the future.
In conclusion, if “accessibility is not a special favour but a general service”, it seems to have some gaps between high expectations and the revised text. It is not sure that the report proposed by the rapporteur will answer all questions raised about PRM rights in railways.