By the vote on 25 January 2021, the Council adopted its position at first reading on a reform of Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations which strengthens their position in an increased number of rail services compared to the former rules by laying down a minimum level of protection.

In the first place, the proposal introduces a force majeure clause addressing compensation for delayed rail services, which will create a more level playing field in relation to other modes of transport for which such clauses already exist. More particularly, rail companies will not need to pay compensation for delays or cancellations in circumstances they could not have avoided, such as extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters, major public health crises or terrorist attacks, excluding rail staff strikes.

In the second place, the proposal aims at strengthening rights for people with disabilities or with reduced mobility through, amongst other things, i) a reduction of the advance notice to be given by persons who require assistance from a minimum of 48 hours to 24 hours, ii) the right to buy a ticket on board if there is no accessible alternative for buying it beforehand, iii) clearer rules on compensation for lost or damaged mobility equipment, and iv) the applicability, from 2023 on, of the right to receive assistance when boarding and disembarking from trains to all regional and long-distance trains in the Union, provided that trained staff are on duty.

In the third place, railway undertakings will be obliged to install at least four spaces for bicycles on each train, informing passengers of available capacity, and in deciding to include a different number of spaces based on the type of service, the size of the train and the foreseeable demand for carriage of bicycles they will need to consult the public beforehand.

Furthermore, rail companies will be encouraged to increase their offer of single tickets valid for successive legs in a journey (so-called “of through-tickets”), which will be mandatory if connecting trains are run by a sole railway undertaking, and to clearly inform passengers, being otherwise liable as if those tickets were through-tickets.

Finally, rail operators will in all circumstances need to try to re-route the passenger who, if the operator has not managed to communicate the available options within 100 minutes, may take alternative public land transport on her/his own initiative, being reimbursed of the necessary cost.

The revised Regulation will now need to be adopted by the Parliament at second reading before being published in the Union Official Journal. Thereafter, it will enter into force twenty days after its publication, starting 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.