The European Commission is consulting until May 2016 on rail passenger rights and obligations. This includes whether current exemptions from Regulation 1371/2007 (Passenger Rights Regulation, PRR) should be allowed to continue. The UK currently exempts operators from parts of PRR, although ORR has been consulting on whether that exemption should remain.

The consultation is aimed at examining options to better protect rail passengers in the EU. Ultimately, this may result in new regulation or an updated version of the PRR. In addition to questioning the continuation of exemptions, the European Commission is also enquiring into:

  • the impact of PRR on businesses and passengers;
  • whether the role of domestic enforcement bodies is clear;
  • whether bodies other than transport operators are required to handle complaints;
  • how passengers are handled during major disruption and whether contingency planning should be governed by EU Regulations;
  • liabilities in the event of Force Majeure (unforeseen and unavoidable events);
  • assistance to persons with disabilities or reduced mobility; and
  • structural issues about the manner in which the regulation is written.

Depending on the conclusions of this consultation the European Commission may well put forward changes to passenger rights legislation which would have direct commercial effects upon operators and all rail industry parties who interface with passengers.

Commercial impacts may include the extension of directly effective European Law to daily operational matters including (amongst others):

  • how operators respond to significant disruption;
  • the balance between which party (railway undertaking or someone else) should take the economic burden for passenger assistance;
  • information, assistance and compensation obligations in the event of delay and cancellation;
  • whether complaints can be handled by operators or whether an independent body is required;
  • whether ticket prices for UK services can differ depending upon which member state they are sold in;
  • the extent of training of staff in the legal framework of awareness and assistance to PRM; and
  • whether European guidelines should be developed on contingency planning.

The consultation is open until 5 May 2016 and is being conducted online at http://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/passengers/consultations/2016-02-03-rail-rights-and-obligations_en.htm.