Tunnel vision? Completing the European rail market - European Union Committee Contents


115.  The consumer's perspective should be a primary consideration in the further development of the international passenger rail services market. This perspective is often overlooked when regulatory matters are being discussed, but there is a Regulation which attends specifically to the rights and obligations of international rail passengers (see Box 8).


Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers' rights and obligations
The Regulation on rail passengers' rights and obligations entered into force in December 2009. It is part of a suite of measures designed to safeguard passengers' rights across all modes of transport.[204]

The Regulation makes provision for passengers to be given relevant information about their journey and to allow them to purchase tickets either from ticket offices, selling machines, on board trains or through widely available information technology.

In the case of delays or cancellations passengers are entitled to compensation, alternative transport to their destination and reasonable accommodation and refreshments if necessary. The Regulation also sets rules about compensation for loss of luggage, access for persons of restricted mobility and ensuring the personal security of passengers.

116.  The Commission's White Paper includes proposals to enhance passenger rights further, as well as making them consistent across all transport modes. These include plans to harmonise the interpretation of EU law on passenger rights as well as to produce a Charter of Basic Rights applicable across transport modes. It also envisages measures covering multimodal journeys with integrated tickets under a single purchase contract, and plans to improve journeys for passengers with reduced mobility.[205]

117.  Some of our witnesses supported the Commission's plans to strengthen the Regulation in the context of harmonising passenger rights across modes.[206] Others disagreed, with Deutsche Bahn considering that the current Regulation struck a reasonable balance between passenger protection and economic burdens on operators. It felt, as High Speed 1 did, that raising the level of rights would have a detrimental effect on the launch of new services.[207]

118.  In principle, we support the approximation of passenger rights across all transport modes, as proposed in the Commission's White Paper. We will look forward to scrutinising the proposal when it is published.

Pan-European through-ticketing

119.  Although one of the Regulation's aims was to make purchasing tickets easier for rail passengers, we received evidence that problems are still common when buying cross-border tickets. Professor Vickerman considered that the lack of convenient through-booking and integrated ticketing services discouraged greater competition.[208] The Man in Seat Sixty-One cited a number of potential difficulties, including identification and availability of the cheapest tickets, booking online in another Member State and the lack of information on the timetabling of interconnecting services. He argued that all of these problems would frustrate would-be rail passengers and discourage modal shift.[209]

120.  The Commission, alive to the importance of this issue, adopted a Regulation applying the Telematics Applications for Passenger Services (TAP) TSI on 5 May 2011.[210] This requires operators to standardise their data on fares and timetables to ensure maximum interoperability and to ease their exchange between operators throughout the EU, including ticket vendors. Operators will also be legally obliged to place such data in the public domain. The Commission's White Paper also contains a proposal for a complementary measure that would require operators to approximate their IT systems in order to allow easier data transfers between them, which could be used in different rail booking and ticketing systems throughout Europe.[211]

121.  The Minister argued that any solution should be led by the private sector. She told us that none of the rail companies had "come looking for a Government solution", and noted that there were commercial incentives to encourage such developments.[212] She noted that Eurostar had already worked with partners through Railteam[213] to make purchasing through-tickets to continental destinations easier, as well as working with UK operators to increase links with their services domestically.[214] Eurostar told us that through-ticketing was an important issue, and confirmed that it had worked with SCNB, SNCF and Dutch national railways, as well as with other partners in the EU, to develop this matter. However, it stressed that any new service would have to be commercially sound and avoid any "white elephant" IT systems. It agreed that a solution could best emanate from the private sector.[215] Deutsche Bahn thought progress was best achieved through the application of the TAP TSI and through market, rather than Commission, initiatives.[216]

122.  Other witnesses were more sceptical about the likelihood of market-led progress in this area. Professor Vickerman suggested that the market might not be sufficiently large to take the lead. He said that, other than Eurostar and Thalys, even on international trains the proportion of those actually crossing the border was quite small, although he acknowledged that this situation was somewhat "circular".[217] The Man in Seat Sixty-One was more optimistic. He suggested that commercial interest was growing in this area in spite of commercial operators having previously seen rail ticketing as "niche, and a black art". He argued that implementation of the TAP TSI would help, as all undertakings are required to present data in the same format, but that it would still have to be connected and made available through one source, such as National Rail Enquiries in the UK. At present, it was difficult to obtain permission to connect to an undertaking's ticket information, whereas domestic operators in the United Kingdom were legally obliged to make such data available to National Rail Enquiries.[218]

123.  The provision of pan-European through-ticketing is crucial for developing the European rail market and achieving greater competition. The Commission has a key role to play in facilitating cooperation between operators, including through the Telematic Applications for Passenger Services (TAP) Technical Standard for Interoperability (TSI). We welcome strongly the adoption of the TAP TSI as a fundamental building block of pan-European ticketing and support the additional measures contained in the Transport White Paper.

Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF)/International Convention for the Transportation of Passengers (CIV)

124.  Buying a through ticket is one complication of travelling long distances by rail. Another is the number of connections required and the interaction between those services, which may involve several modes of transport. Delay or cancellations of one section can have severe consequences for onward connections. In theory, a degree of protection is offered by the Convention for the transportation of passengers.


The Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) and the Convention for the Transportation of Passengers (CIV)
The Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) was signed in 1985. It established the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (known by its French acronym, OTIF), which included 45 participating countries from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It is responsible for developing international railway measures, including the measure described below. The EU acceded to OTIF on 1 July 2011.

The Convention for the Transportation of Passengers (again, known by its French acronym, CIV) seeks to offer a similar level of protection to rail passengers as enjoyed by air travellers under the Warsaw Convention and sea travellers under the Athens Convention. Under the CIV, transport carriers are required to deliver the passenger and their luggage to their destination, as shown on their ticket, and to provide alternatives in the case of missed or cancelled connections.

125.  The Man in Seat Sixty-One stressed the importance to rail travellers of making onward connections, and identified problems with the current operation of the CIV. He noted that the CIV was written during a previous railway age and had not adapted for the new deregulated rail market. In particular, he pointed to problems concerning the purchase of multiple tickets for international journeys. The CIV applies theoretically to these but it sometimes proves difficult to obtain redress for missed connections. He argued that the problem had become worse in recent years because there were now fewer long-distance through-trains, with more connections required as a result. This had resulted in rail operators issuing several non-refundable, non-flexible tickets, rather than one single, flexible ticket to cover the whole journey. Increased liberalisation has also meant that more operators are now involved.[219] Ivor Morgan echoed these concerns and argued that the CIV provisions should be clarified in order to remove these grey areas.[220] Professor Vickerman thought it was difficult to apply CIV to multi-modal journeys as the existence of separate tickets, and thus separate contracts, created a "murky area of liability".[221] The Minister argued that the current regime was adequate and did "not see at the moment that there is a gap in passenger protection that needs filling with a change in the rules".[222]

126.  The application of, and interaction between, consumer rights protection via the CIV and the Passenger Rail Rights Regulation is opaque and in need of clarification, especially regarding the issue of multiple tickets for a single journey. This is especially so as easier ticket purchasing following the implementation of the TAP TSI will result in a greater proliferation of tickets, albeit sometimes issued by a single ticket vendor.

127.  We recommend that the Government work with their partners in the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail to clarify the application of the Convention for the Transportation of Passengers to international rail passenger journeys in the EU. The definition of a single contract of carriage should be made clear, to outline what guarantees a passenger can expect with respect to onward connections.

204   Regulations 261/2004 and 1107/2006 concern the rights of air travellers; Regulation 1177/2010 concerns the rights of those travelling by sea and inland waterway; and Regulation 181/2011 concerns the rights of bus and coach passengers. Back

205   COM (2011) 144, p. 23 Back

206   IRAO and Passenger Focus Back

207   Deutsche Bahn and HS1 Back

208   Professor Vickerman Back

209   The Man in Seat Sixty-One Back

210   Commission Regulation 454/2011 on the technical specification for interoperability relating to the subsystem 'telematics applications for passenger services' of the trans-European rail system. This TSI is related to Regulation 1371/2007 and obliges undertakings to offer the lowest price and fastest connection. It also obliges all undertakings to offer ticketing information in the same format, thereby making it accessible to others. Back

211   COM (2011) 144, p. 24 Back

212   Q 295 Back

213   Railteam is an alliance of European high speed rail operators, including Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and SNCB. Back

214   Q 295 Back

215   Q 83 Back

216   Q 125. However the Man in Seat Sixty-One believed (as per his written evidence) that there were problems with the operation of Deutsche Bahn's online ticket booking system in this respect. Back

217   Q 40 Back

218   Q 250 Back

219   Q 239 Back

220   Ivor Morgan Back

221   Q 26 Back

222   Q 295 Back

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