Under new rules adopted by the European Parliament, train passengers in the EU will be better protected when there are delays and cancellations or when they face discrimination.
The European Parliament recently approved the agreement with member states on the revised rules on rail passengers’ rights.
The rules will guarantee that passengers can be re-routed and receive help when there are delays and cancellations. Access and assistance will improve for people with reduced mobility, and there will be more dedicated spaces for bicycles.
Helping stranded travellers
If there is a delay of over 60 minutes, passengers can choose either to be fully reimbursed for the cost of the ticket, continue on their journey or be re-routed under comparable conditions, but without facing additional costs. They must be able to travel in the same class as their original ticket. Train travellers will be able to organise travel on a different route themselves and get reimbursement for a new ticket if the rail operator does not communicate re-routing options within 100 minutes from scheduled departure.
The re-routing obligations will apply even in the event of force majeure and if necessary, meals and refreshments will need to be provided, and accommodation costs will be reimbursed.
The new rules will also give more clarity on what can be considered a force majeure, which would exempt rail companies from paying compensation for delays or cancellations. In addition to extreme weather conditions and major natural disasters, the new rules now include major public health crises or terrorist attacks. Rail staff strikes will not be covered by this exemption.
Assisting people with reduced mobility
Travellers with reduced mobility will have more flexibility when making travel arrangements, as they will be obliged to notify the operator of their travel plans only 24 hours in advance (under current rules, they have to notify the operator 48 hours in advance). Where an accompanying person is required, they shall travel free of charge. Travellers with reduced mobility using an assistance dog shall be given a guarantee that the animal can travel with them.
Refurbishing trains for more bicycles
In an effort to provide more sustainable mobility and comfortable alternatives, all trains must be equipped with dedicated spaces and racks for bicycles, with at least four bicycle spaces on each train.
The revised rules will apply in principle to all international and domestic rail journeys and services throughout the EU, with a possibility for member states to exempt domestic rail services for a limited time.
The rules will enter into force 20 days after they are published in the Official Journal of the EU. They will start to apply two years later, with the exception of the bicycle space requirements, which will be applicable four years after the entry into force of the regulation.