Recast of the Regulation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 defines rail passengers’ rights and obligations. In force since December 2009, it establishes fundamental rights with regard to information, availability of tickets, assistance, compensation in case of delay, cancellation or accident, free-of-charge assistance for persons with disabilities or reduced mobility (DPRM) and complaint-handling mechanisms.

In September 2017, the Commission put forward a recast of the regulation, aiming to strike a better balance between the protection of EU rail passengers and the interests of rail operators.

It focused firstly on a uniform application of the rules, removing exemptions for cross-border urban, sub-urban and regional services and, by 2020, for long-distance domestic services. The proposal reinforced DPRMs’ rights: information and assistance should be mandatory for these persons on all train services, as well as compensation for loss or repair of mobility equipment. The proposal improved information to passengers about their rights. This provision would apply also to customers buying through-tickets, as they should know whether their rights apply to the whole trip or only to some segments. To strengthen enforcement, the recast regulation described in more detail the complaint-handling process and deadlines. Most importantly, it introduced a ‘force majeure’ clause, which exempts rail operators from paying compensation in the event of delays caused by natural catastrophes, which they did not cause or could not prevent. This provision aligned rail passengers’ rights with those of other transport modes, which already benefitted from force majeure exemptions.

In October 2017, the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), responsible for the file, appointed Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D, Poland) as rapporteur. On 26 February 2018, the TRAN Committee published its draft report, which strongly supported the access to rail transport for DPRMs. The opinion of the EP Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection was published on 5 June 2018.

On 9 October 2018, TRAN Committee voted and adopted the draft report. The Committee proposed to delete the force majeure clause, included regional services in the scope of the regulation, and introduced a more precise definition of through-tickets. It also reinforced passengers' right to carry bicycles on board. Moreover, the Committee increased the compensation levels of the ticket price in case of delay: 50 % of the ticket for a delay between 60 and 90 minutes, 75 % for a delay between 91 and 120 minutes and 100 % for a delay above two hours. Regarding assistance in stations for DPRMs, the report reduced the pre-notification period from 48 to 12 hours. TRAN Committee adopted its draft report with 39 votes in favour, 2 against and 6 abstentions. On 15 November 2018 the EP, in plenary session, adopted the proposal with 533 votes in favour, 37 against and 47 abstentions and confirmed all major items contained in the adopted TRAN Committee report. On 24 September 2019, TRAN Committee adopted a decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations on this file. On 21 October 2019, the EP decided to include this file in unfinished business to be carried over.

The Council Working Party on Land Transport started its work on this file in September 2017 under the Estonian presidency. The Council adopted its general approach on 2 December 2019. Concerning the scope of the regulation, contrary to the EP, it kept the possibility to exempt urban, suburban and regional services as well as the force majeure clause. Unlike the EP, the Council kept minimum compensation levels in case of delays, in line with the Commission proposal. The general approach also insisted on better information on through-tickets.

Interinstitutional negotiations on the file began on 28 January 2020 and were interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Trilogue meetings resumed on 23 June 2020. On 1st October 2020, during the fourth trilogue, under the German Presidency, the Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement. The main achievements concerned the reduction of pre-notification for assistance services for DPRMs to 24 hours (as of 30 June 2026), and a rerouting solution for passengers after 100 minutes of delay, whatever the circumstances. Concerning compensation for delays, the agreed text kept the existing minimum rates unchanged. Under the agreement, when buying new rolling stock or refurbishing existing ones railway undertakings would be obliged to install a minimum of four dedicated bicycle spaces. The force majeure clause was inserted into the text. On 21 October 2020, Coreper endorsed the provisional agreement and on 28 October, the TRAN Committee approved it with 38 votes in favour, 7 against and 4 abstentions. On 13 January 2021, the Council published the text after its legal and linguistic revision. On 25 January 2021, the Council formally adopted its position at first reading.

On 16 March 2021, the TRAN Committee adopted the agreed text on second reading by 36 votes in favour to 6 and 4 abstentions. The European Parliament as a whole endorsed the agreement on second reading on 29 April 2021. The new rules were published in the Official Journal of the EU on 17 May 2021. They apply in principle to all international and domestic rail journeys and services in the EU from 7 June 2023. However, Member States may exempt domestic rail services for a limited time.

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Author: Monika Kiss, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

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As of 20/05/2024.