This is a contribution to a study about regulatory gaps and action needed in European passenger policy.
The Research Note was awarded to the University of Central Lancashire, Institute of Transport & Tourism, School of Sport, Tourism and The Outdoor, by the European Added Value Unit of the Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value, within the Directorate–General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL) of the Secretariat of the European Parliament. Submitted on 16 April 2014, published on 12 June 2014.

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This contribution has received input from various persons and organizations from Italy, France, Belgium, Germany.

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Gap 1: Passenger organizations often do not have enough resources to participate in debate.

Transport authorities must help development of passenger organizations, in every city !

In many European countries, passenger organizations do not have the necessary human and financial resources that would allow them to provide interactive support to individual passengers, nor to campaign, as needed by all the issues they meet. They are much weaker compared to transport operators, industries or governments, which have much more resources available, including staff, information, expertise and the power to decide. Paradoxically, the organisations that represent the most people (the users) have the least resources.

The most powerful passenger organizations in Europe (based on staff numbers and budget, according to informal knowledge) are UK Passenger Focus, funded by the UK Department of Transport (around 5M€ /year), the (non-EU) Swiss ATE (Association Transport et Environnement), with its staff of 60, funded through its sales of car insurance, and the VCD/VCÖ network in Germany and Austria, that also offer as well diversified services. In other countries, passenger organizations have to rely on smaller teams (generally less than 10) at national level, and on volunteer committees at local level. In some cases, some organisations have a strong regional network, such as Rover (NL) or Fnaut (FR), which gives them some power to take part in consultations, but still few resources for actions.

We believe that user organizations should have the means to play their role as a main stakeholder.

Actions needed :

(1) Support should be given to passenger organizations. This can consist of specific programs, with achievement-based funding.

(2) There should also be an obligation for governments or transport authorities to transfer at least a tiny part of the global ressources for transport (funding or in-kind support) to allow a structured participation and representation of users.

Gap 2 : Insufficient rights for passenger organizations in both planning & control

We want real participation in transport governance, from long term planning to everyday issues !

Passenger rights are precisely defined by European regulation for the 4 main transport modes ; they are currently stated mainly in Regulation 261/2004 (Air), Regulation 1371/2007 (Rail), Regulation 181/2011 (Road), and Regulation 1177/2010 (Maritime). However, these only cover the relation between the individual passenger and the transport operator during a precise trip.

Unfortunately, these regulations do not include any concrete measure that help passenger organizations to contribute as a main stakeholder of the transport system. Particularly, there is no mention of the contribution that passenger organizations can provide to planning (when defining the service) and control (after service has been operated), particularly on what services should be provided, its quality criteria, and the monitoring of the service.

Passenger rights need to include a right to acquire detailed explanations on how the service works, particularly when the service proves inadequate in the longer term, or when, according to a passengers' point of view, regulation enforcement is poor.

Concerning control by users, some rights are set in Regulations 1370/2007 (access to provision of public transport service) and 1371/2007 (publication of users' complaints, in art. 27). However they appear not to be fully implemented everywhere, yet.

Going into more detail, users participation can be developed on 4 levels : political, planning, production, practical1.

Actions needed :

Transport policies should recognize the role of user organisations, in two main phases in the provision of transport services :

1. Planning of the service, in the strategic phase,
2. Control of the service, in an operational phase.

(1) Planning :

1.1 Regulation should include the right of passenger organizations to participate in the committees that identify needs in transport and services to be proposed, particularly in the dialogue between transport operators, infrastructure operators, transport authorities and other stakeholders. A specific dialogue process should also be organized where the service is provided by a single private transport operator.

1.2 Transport operators must provide a "Code of Service Quality"2, to be developed with the stakeholders, which must detail quality and quantity standard criteria for service, complaint and conciliation procedures.

(2) Control :

2.1 Regulation needs to address open data and a right-to-information access for transport exploitation data and service contracts. All documents should be made public, except specific cases duly justified. For any service disruption, passengers and passenger organizations should have access to an extended explanation to the causes of this disruption, and be able to take up dialogue at the desired level (from technical and operational to managerial), to understand how this cause can be avoided in future occurrences.

2.2. Transport authorities should regularly check with passengers organizations that the service that is provided according to the service contract does effectively comply with passengers' needs. Individual passengers must also be able to make comments and proposals easily3.

2.3. Transport authorities or governments must set up a permanent quality management system including consumer organizations4. An individual passenger should also be able to participate in this monitoring.

2.4. Transport authorities or governmentsmust set up an annual session of service monitoring, where transport operators and consumer organizations should participate5.

2.5 Extension of the rights of Regulations 1370/2007 and 1371/2007 to all areas of transport (not only rail and road).

2.6 To raise public and political awareness on the control data that has been gathered, together with the publication of an independent annual report on quality of public transport, with ranking from best to worst cases.

(3) These are essential activities to the provision of transport service. They should be funded by the transport operator, and this funding should be set down in the service contract, and run for the whole contract duration6.

(4) Ensure an effective implementation of these regulations. In Italy, the regulation now appears to be satisfactory, but it is not implemented well.

Gap 3 : Insufficient passenger protection

Sometimes it's just too hard to get a ticket refund !

Even if passengers' rights are defined for some areas, existing regulations does not address intermodal transport, nor ensure comprehensive implementation of passengers' rights independently of their means of public transport. Passengers' rights should be the same for all transport modes.

For example, there is poor compensation for passengers who miss their airplane because the train to the airport is late. This creates different, inconsistent levels of rights and protection.

Implementation of the existing rights is sometimes difficult, for example with operators that do not reply to compensation requests and prefer to face trial. Passengers should have guaranteed, easy access to their rights, including timely replies to their requests, and there should be stronger penalties for transport operators that do not respect these rights.

Actions needed :

(1)Transport authorities should produce a detailed review of passengers' rights, so as to cover these gaps. Some rights should be established independently of the transport mode.

(2) Stronger, explicit penalties for transport operators that do not respect passengers rights, and the obligation of simple and short procedures for passengers' compensation requests.

(3) Transport authorities should produce a yearly report on passengers' rights, including an analysis of the passenger requests, how they have been answered, and how authorities have monitored transport operators. It should be made available by national and/or European authorities.

Gap 4: Insufficient attention to disadvantaged or excluded passengers.

Special care for people disabled or feeling unsafe !

Transport operators and governments often introduce measures to improve accessibility without gathering enough consistent feedback from the concerned passengers or passenger organisations: only some of them are consulted, sometimes without sufficient exchanges on the measures to be implemented.

On the other side, passenger organisations often do not have the means to analyse the impact of transport service provision on the different groups of passengers, particularly the weakers amongst them.

Disadvantaged passengers can be persons with a handicap, but also persons simply faced with a negative context, a typical case being women feeling lack of safety in a metro station : this can include many different persons.

Actions needed :

(1) A European survey should precisely identify all vulnerable groups in transport accessibility, and the obstacles they meet. This includes different kind of vulnerability, as, amongst others, persons with any kind of handicap (not only mobility), and those experiencing gender inequality or discrimination.

(2) Service contracts with transport operators must include quality standards for accessibility and inclusion of all these vulnerable groups, including monitoring and recourse procedures needed to address these issues.

(3) Passenger organisations need to receive funding and structural support, in order to diversify their staff, and develop specific measures to defend these vulnerable groups.

(4) A report on the implementation of the measures set out in the applicable regulation by the responsible bodies (such as transport operators or infrastructures managers).

Gap 5 : Lack of passenger personal data protection

We don't want anyone being able to track each of our bus trips !

Passengers do not know what of their personal data is gathered (for example personal identification, travel history, payment data), and who can access this data.

In a growing number of situations, it is not possible to travel anonymously anymore.

For air travel, data collection due to security measures is going deeper and deeper into passengers' personal life, with little transparency on procedures and recourses. There have been cases of persons that have seen their name on a 'black list' and as a result are restricted in their flights, without known reason, nor concrete possibility to remedy this.

Actions needed :

The actions needed go in the same direction as the measures set in the European Parliament vote of 12 March 2014, concerning a revision of the EU data protection reform.

Particularly:

(1) Transparency: Transport operators must provide, from the homepage of their website, their privacy policy in a detailed and understandable version. This means a detailed explanation about treatment of passengers' personal data : how they are collected (through purchase, ticket validation, internet surfing, CCTV) and conserved, for which aims, who can access which data and under which conditions, with a distinction between the other companies of the transport operator group, and third companies. Recourse must be possible by all common means (internet, phone, post), and with a rapid effect.

(2) Anonymity : It should always be possible to travel anonymously, without a price supplement or penalty.

(3) Citizens control: an independent authority should regularly control the privacy protection systems of transport operators. Any person should have the possibility to check compliance with this.

Gap 6 : Environmental aspect: unsustainable price distortion between road, air and rail

Road and air users must pay the same taxes as rail users !

Road users do not always pay all their external costs, such as accidents, road maintenance, or environmental impact on air or noise. Inversely, rail users usually pay most of theses costs, for example with the levy due to each train trip, which pays infrastructure maintenance.

This is the same for air users, as they do not pay for air pollution, and in many situations actually benefit from non-taxed fuel.

This creates price distortion within the transport market.

A consequence for passengers is that they support additional costs if they want to take the train, despite it being the safest and most sustainable mean of transport.

Actions needed :

(1) Implement the measures that assist in including external costs of road and air into pricing and taxation.

(2) Make budget transfers from road and air to rail, so as to reduce rail costs and improve rail service.

 


 

1 As concluded by the project BUSREP (ended 2008).

2 From Italian Regulation : comma 461, art. 2, legge finanziaria 2008 – n. 244/2007, letter a).

3 From Italian Regulation : comma 461, art. 2, legge finanziaria 2008 – n. 244/2007, letter c).

4 From Italian Regulation : comma 461, art. 2, legge finanziaria 2008 – n. 244/2007, letter d).

5 From Italian Regulation : comma 461, art. 2, legge finanziaria 2008 – n. 244/2007, letter e).

6 From Italian Regulation : comma 461, art. 2, legge finanziaria 2008 – n. 244/2007, letter f).