New EU rules for rail passenger protection went into effect on June 7th, as announced by the European Commission DG for Mobility and Transport. With the new regulation, passengers are meant to be better protected if their travel is disrupted. Railway companies must also ensure a trouble-free travel experience for passengers with reduced mobility.
In practical terms, the changes mean that when passengers have not been offered a solution – within 100 minutes of a disruption – as to how the journey can continue, they will have a new right to self-rerouting. In such cases, passengers can now themselves organize alternative travel by rail or bus, and must be reimbursed by the carrier for the ‘necessary, appropriate and reasonable’ cost of the additional ticket.
To establish a level playing field with the other transport modes, the regulation also clarifies that railway undertakings do not have to pay compensation for delays or cancellation caused by ‘force majeure’. These are extraordinary circumstances not connected with the operation of the railway, such as extreme weather, pandemics and terrorist attacks. The provision would apply only if the carrier could neither prevent nor avoid – irrespective of the due care taken – the consequences of these events.
A strike by rail carrier’s staff does not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance. The force majeure clause would only release the railway undertaking from the payment of compensation for delays or cancellations, not from other obligations. This means that even when force majeure applies, the railway undertaking will still need to reimburse the cost of the ticket or to re-route the passenger to another service, and to provide assistance.
This new set of passenger rights is a key step on our way to better connecting people across Europe.Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Mobility and Transport
Rail companies qualifying as a ‘sole undertaking’ now have to offer ‘through-tickets’, meaning that passengers have more rights if they miss a connection, including the right to ticket reimbursement or compensation, to accommodation when a journey cannot continue the same day, and to refreshments. In the past, passengers had the right to claim back 25 per cent of their ticket price for delays of over an hour, and 50 per cent for more than two hours delay in most circumstances. This will no longer be the case.
“We need strong and modern rail passenger rights to attract more people to rail and contribute to our climate goals,” Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Mobility and Transport. “The new rules will improve protection for rail passengers faced with delays, cancellations and missed connections. They also respond better to the needs of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility.”
From now on, infrastructure managers and railway undertakings will have to provide real-time dynamic traffic and travel information, not only to railway undertakings, but also to ticket vendors and tour operators. By increasing access to railway undertakings’ reservation systems, new rules will also enable vendors and operators to prepare more innovative offers, such as bundled tickets covering different carriers, and a combination of connections not offered until now.
The new framework includes several new provisions to make rail more practicable for persons with disabilities or reduced mobility. A railway undertaking, ticket vendor or tour operator may not require that such person is accompanied by another person, unless this is strictly necessary in order to comply with established access rules. If this is the case, the accompanying person is entitled to travel free of charge and to be seated close to the person they are assisting.
The pre-notification period for assistance requests has also been shortened to 24 hours – significantly shorter than that required by other transport modes (36 hours for bus and coach travel, and 48 hours for the air and waterborne sector). While Member States can decide to postpone the application of this rule until 30 June 2026 at the latest (and up to maximum 36 hours), they can do so only in justified cases.
The framework also strengthens complaint-handling mechanisms, and reinforces the obligation for national authorities to cooperate in this regard. In the future, a new EU-wide standardized compensation and reimbursement form will be developed.
The new set of rules also ensures dedicated places for assembled bikes, making them mandatory for all new trains ordered after 7 June 2025, as well as for trains undergoing major upgrades from this date. The legislation also sets rules on the establishment of plans by railway undertakings and national authorities on how to increase and improve the transport of bicycles, and on other solutions encouraging combined use of railways and bicycles.