The Committee endorses the Commission's proposals, in particular the ones that further clarify the current rules, provide better information to passengers, and, by removing national exemptions, promote the uniform application of passenger rights throughout the European Union. In addition, the introduction of a force majeure clause as such is warranted, in order to align rail with the other modes of transport.
However, the Committee also has a number of proposals for tightening up the draft text:
- It can sometimes be difficult for train staff to identify passengers with disabilities, and will be all the more so now that it is proposed to include mental and psychological disability in the definition of persons with reduced mobility. In the case of suspected fraud, this might lead to critical situations and operational difficulties. This issue should be given due attention in staff training (Article 26).
- The remaining exemptions to national long-distance services should continue to be phased out gradually by 2024 in line with the existing regulation's requirement. Ending the exemption earlier, in 2020, as proposed by the Commission, could be too early for certain Member States. In that case, an appropriate solution should be found on a case-by-case basis, to enable a smooth transition.
- The minimum compensations (Article 17(1)) are subject to a minimum of 60 minutes' delay. However, in current practice, shorter minimum delays have been known to apply. That possibility should be maintained by expressly mentioning this in the article.
- With regard to the travel information to be provided, it should be added that where the minimum delay for compensation will almost certainly be reached or exceeded, this must be communicated to the passengers and, where possible, the relevant application forms for compensation actually made available.
- Article 22 governs assistance at railway stations. Paragraph 3 sets out special arrangements for unstaffed stations. The proposed new paragraph 4 then fails to take due account of this. The Committee recommends adding "with the exception of unstaffed stations, which are covered by paragraph 3" after the last word in paragraph 4 ("operate").