Third Railway Package valid in all European Union member states

The third railway package adopted in September 2007 contains measures to revitalise the railways in Europe. The European Commission puts forward new proposals to open up the international passenger transport market by 2010 and to regulate passenger rights in railway traffic just rights of passengers travelling by plane and the certification of train crews. This third package should complete the European regulatory framework for the rail sector.

Among the most important provisions of the Third Railway Package are the Directive on the development of the Community’s railways and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure. Opening up international passenger services, which include the right to pick up passengers at any station located on the route of an international service and to set them down at another, including stations located in the same Member State, to competition may have implications for the organisation and financing of rail passenger services provided under a public service contract. Member States should limit the right of access to the market where this right would compromise the economic equilibrium of these public service contracts concluded between the state and the operator.

Certification for locomotive drivers and more rights for passengers

Directive 59/2007 stipulates the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community. The aim of these common provisions should be above all to make it easier for train drivers to move from one Member State to another, but also to make it easier for them to move from one railway undertaking to another, and generally for licences and harmonised complementary certificates to be recognised by all railway sector stakeholders. To this end, it is essential that the provisions establish minimum requirements which applicants should meet to obtain a licence or harmonised complementary certificate. It specifies the tasks for which the competent authorities of the Member States, train drivers and other stakeholders in the sector, in particular railway undertakings, infrastructure managers and training centres, are responsible.

Member States may exclude from the measures they adopt in implementation of this Directive train drivers operating exclusively on metros, trams and other light rail systems; networks that are functionally separate from the rest of the rail system and are intended only for the operation of local, urban or suburban passenger and freight services or private railway infrastructure.

In order to guarantee the necessary uniformity and transparency, the Community should establish a single certification model, mutually recognised by the Member States, attesting both to train drivers’ compliance with certain minimum conditions, and to their professional qualifications and linguistic knowledge, leaving it to the competent authorities in the Member States to issue licences and to railway undertakings and infrastructure managers to issue harmonised complementary certificates.

The most important provision of the Third Railway Package is undoubtedly Regulation 1371/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council on rail passengers’ rights and obligations. The provisions of Regulation 1371/2007 came into force on December 4, 2009 and apply to all European Union Member States. This regulation aims at ensuring the protection of railway passengers’ rights and at improving the quality and efficiency of railway passenger transport services. The preamble of the community norm act, paragraph (26) stipulates that: “Urban, suburban and regional rail passenger services are different in character from long-distance services. Therefore, with the exception of certain provisions which should apply to all rail passenger services throughout the Community, Member States should be able to grant exemptions from the application of the provisions of this Regulation to urban, suburban and regional rail passenger services”. With the exception of the provisions set out in paragraph 3, a Member State may, on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, grant an exemption for a period no longer than five years, which may be renewed twice for a maximum period of five years on each occasion, from the application of the provisions of this Regulation to domestic rail passenger services. In the EU, nearly 8 billion passengers use railway transport every year.

New rights in force

-Guaranteeing non-discriminating access to trains and assistance to low-mobility and disabled people

-Reinforcing the railway passengers’ right to compensations in case their luggage is lost (up to around EUR 1,285 per luggage)

-Strengthening the passengers’ rights in case of death or injury by paying compensations in advance to satisfy immediate economic needs. The compensations are estimated at least EUR 21,000 per passenger in case of death

-Strengthening the passengers’ rights to compensations in case train journey is cancelled or in case of delays, the minimum compensation rising to 25% of the ticket price for delays of one and two hours and of 50% for delays exceeding two hours.

- Providing railway passengers the right to be completely informed before their journey, for example, about delays

-Forces railway companies and railway station managers to ensure the personal security of passengers inside railway stations and trains

-Railway companies have to provide a mechanism to help passengers present their complaints about the rights and obligation included in the new regulation

-Extending the existing railway passengers’ rights to internal railway services within the International Railway Transport Convention (COTIF) which mainly covers international transport.

The treaty of Lisbon

The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009, thus putting an end to several years of negotiations on institutional aspects. The Treaty of Lisbon explicitly acknowledges for the first time the possibility that a member state leaves the Union. The Treaty of Lisbon amends the current EU and EC treaties, without replacing them. It provides the Union with the legal framework and tools necessary to meet future challenges and to respond to citizens’ demands.

The Treaty stands for a more democratic and transparent Europe, with a strengthened role for the European Parliament and national parliaments, more opportunities for citizens to  have  their voices heard and a clearer sense of who does what at European and national level. Although national parliaments are not part of the European institutional structure, they play an essential role in the EU functioning. The Treaty acknowledges and strengthens the role of national parliaments. For example, if a sufficient number of national parliaments believe it is preferable that a legislative initiative would be made locally, regionally or nationally, the Commission must either withdraw its proposal or justify that its initiative is not against the subsidiary principle.

Thus, the Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the role of the European Parliament: directly elected by EU citizens, is provided with important new powers regarding EU legislation, the EU budget and international agreements. In particular, the increase of co-decision procedure in policy-making ensures that the European Parliament is placed on an equal footing with the Council, representing Member States, for the vast bulk of EU legislation.

Elena Ilie