As millions of European citizens will be travelling during the summer period, today the Commission is calling for better application and enforcement of passenger rights legislation in the European Union. As a first remedy, today the Commission adopted interpretative guidelines clarifying the existing rules in the rail sector.
EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: "Transport is not about infrastructure, tracks, trains or trucks, it is about people: workers and passengers. That is why the Commission has always put citizens at the heart of its transport policy. Under its leadership, the EU became the first area in the world where passengers have guaranteed rights across all forms of transport. Which is why I cannot accept that a lack of enforcement jeopardises this achievement. I therefore call on all Member States to ensure that EU legislation is correctly applied. The rail guidelines adopted today will provide some assistance. I also hope that the discussions in the Council on a new Regulation in the air sector can move forward, for the benefit of EU citizens."
Addressed specifically to the rail transport industry and to national authorities, the guidelines adopted today seek to clarify and strengthen the application and enforcement of rail passenger rights in the European Union. In particular, an assessment by the Commission of the implementation of the Regulation and of the relevant case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) pointed at a need to clarify the following points:
- Information: All actors need to make information about travel, tariffs and tickets available to passengers, including in alternative formats for persons with disabilities.
- Delays, cancellations and missed connections: Passengers holding separate tickets under a single contract have equal rights as passengers with a single ticket.
- Rights of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility: Rail companies cannot ask for medical certificates as a precondition to sell a ticket, to allow these persons to use rail services or to justify their need for assistance.
- Complaint handling, enforcement and cooperation between national authorities: Railway companies and national authorities have to set up adequate complaint handling mechanisms. Railway companies have to reply to complainants within strict timeframes.
Regarding the air sector, in 2013 the Commission proposed an amendment to current Regulation on air passenger rights. The legislative procedure in the European Parliament and Council is ongoing. Existing rights in this sector have nevertheless already been further developed and strengthened by the case-law of the ECJ. The Commission has therefore decided to make available a summary of the most relevant judgements on air passenger rights and of their practical implications. They include compensation for delays, compensation for missed connecting flights or precisions to the notion of "extraordinary circumstances" under which airlines can be exempted from paying the compensation.
Protecting the rights of passengers across all transport modes is a long-standing commitment of this Commission. For this holiday season, Commissioner for transport Violeta Bulc recorded this video clip explaining why protecting passengers' rights matters to the Commission.
In addition to the Commission's on-going information campaign to raise citizens' awareness on passengers' rights, the Commission services will also launch an impact assessment in order to examine options to further improve rail passenger rights in the EU. The Commission will also look into options for a legal framework for passenger rights when using different modes of transport for a single journey.
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