New EU rail rules threaten UK passenger rights

New rules approved today by MEPs risk undermining existing rail passenger rights in the UK, Conservative Transport Spokesman Jacqueline Foster MEP has warned.

The measures threaten current compensation schemes by making it easier for train companies to avoid paying out for delayed or cancelled services. The report also calls for "service animals" such as guide dogs to be certified before being allowed on trains, introducing new and unnecessary bureaucracy.

Mrs Foster, Deputy Leader of Conservative MEPs, said: 

"Whilst we always welcome improvements to passengers' rights, I have serious concerns about some proposals which will confuse passengers with reduced mobility, complicate compensation schemes and tie the hands of rail companies."

"The UK currently has a successful compensation scheme which passengers understand. However, these new measures complicate those rules by potentially allowing companies to pass the buck and confuse passengers who are trying to claim compensation.

"I am deeply concerned about requirements for service animals, like guide dogs, to be certified before they are allowed on trains. The new rules also confuse the notice period for passengers' who require assistance. If these rules are meant to improve access for disabled passengers they shouldn't be making it more bureaucratic and complicated for them to travel."

A requirement for all trains to have eight designated spaces for bicycles would also be imposed under the EU rules. This would likely require some British rail companies to buy new rolling stock to meet the rule and prevent them from prioritising seats over bikes on busier services. They would also have to conduct a "meaningful and proper consultation" before cancelling any service, making it impossible for companies to cope with sudden emergencies.

Mrs Foster added: 

"We all want to see a greater use of bicycles, but requiring all services to have space for eight bikes risks making busier services overcrowded. The rules should be flexible allowing for rail companies to prioritise seats over bikes when it's likely to be busy.

"Rail companies also need the ability to quickly cancel or delay services if there is a sudden emergency. The EU's call for a 'meaningful and proper consultation' beforehand simply won't be possible in some scenarios and common sense should kick in. When the rail track was washed away by a storm in Devon a few years ago the rail company could not be expected to consult before cancelling its services."

 

Photograph credit

Reference: EP-079361E2 / Photographer: Mathieu CUGNOT / Copyright © European Union 2018 - Source : EP