Event: Rail Passengers Right for Persons with Disabilities

European Parliament (Brussels),
28 February 2018
Frank Sioen presenting his personal testimony

On Wednesday 28 February 2018, the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, in collaboration with EDF, held an event on the Revision of the Regulation on Rail Passengers’ Rights (1371/2007)) The event gathered representatives of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament responsible for the regulation, Members of the Disability Intergroup, DPOs, rail industry representatives and experts. It was hosted by MEP Olga Sehnalová (S&D) and MEP Kostadinka Kuneva (GUE). The event included a Presentation of the Commission proposal by Elisabeth Kotthaus, European Commission (DG MOVE, Head of Unit, Social Aspects, Passenger Rights & Equal Opportunities).

Gunta Anca, Secretary of the European Disability Forum, presented EDF’s position. She welcomed the improvements contained in the proposed recast of the Regulation, which fills some important gaps that were previously not considered in the original Regulation. EDF is happy to see that regional and suburban rail services are no longer exempt from the obligation to provide assistance for persons with disabilities. We also strongly support the Commission’s proposal that assistance has to be available at all times when trains are operating, staff has to be trained on disability issues. However, Gunta Anca insisted that some aspects of the proposal have to be improved in order to remove remaining barriers which prevent persons with disabilities from travelling by train like anyone else:

  • above all, removing the obligatory 48-hour pre-notification rule to book assistance. This rule is completely outdated and not in line with the UN Convention. Would you find it normal if your boss asks you to attend an urgent work meeting in Paris and you have to say “Sorry, I cannot because I didn’t book my assistance in time”, said Anca. EDF therefore demands a clear “Turn up and go” policy so that persons with disabilities can travel like everybody else. It is already possible in Spain, where no pre-notification is required at all; the Netherlands have lowered pre-notification to 1 hour. In Austria and Denmark, pre-notification has recently been reduced to 12 hours and in Belgium, it has been lowered to 3 hour at selected stations.

  • ensuring that all train staff gets comprehensive training - just like in the EU regulation on air passengers’ rights. Members of the European Parliament present included Marek Plura, Rosa Thun, Lucy Anderson (shadow rapporteur in the IMCO committee) and Michael Cramer (shadow rapporteur in the TRAN committee). They gave their full support to EDF’s views. ‘The pre-notification rule needs to be removed. We need the establishment of a scheme where you turn up and get assistance’, said Anderson.

There was also an opportunity to present the position of the Rail Industry by Mariska Noorloos, Accessibility Manager, NS.

Frank Sioen from ENIL presented his personal testimony of travelling by train as a person with a disability.

EDF will continue working closely with all actors involved in the legislative procedure.

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