The European Parliament Transport Committee gave its green light at second reading on Tuesday for more competition on international and national railway networks.
MEPs demanded that networks be opened up to competition for international passenger services by 1 January 2010 and for all other types of passenger services by 2017. Member States which joined the EU after 1 May 2004 will nonetheless have the right to postpone the opening up of national services to competition by up to five years. Given that the Council of Transport Ministers is against opening up the market for domestic rail services, rapporteur Georg Jarzembowski expects that an EP/Council conciliation procedure will be needed to achieve a final agreement. Jarzembowski's report was adopted by 30 votes in favor, 15 against and with no abstentions. The proposal that it concerns is part of the third railway package, upon which two other reports, on minimum rights for rail passengers and requirements for train crews, were also put to the second reading vote this morning.
Minimum rights for all railway passengers
"Ordinary rail passengers should not be left out in the cold", says the Committee, which decided almost unanimously (44 in favor, 1 against, no abstentions), to extend proposals on international passengers' rights and obligations to domestic rail traffic. Rapporteur Dirk Sterckx said that there was no point in drawing up a regulation which applied only to the 5% rail passengers who use international train services.
The Committee felt that this regulation should give European citizens the confidence that, in the event of problems, there were certain minimum rights they could fall back on. The matters regulated by this proposal include information for passengers, liability in the event of death or injury and the assistance to persons with reduced mobility.
Members are also in favour of a delay compensation system: 25% of the fare for a delay of 60 minutes or more and 50% for a delay of 120 minutes or more, but only if the operator can be held responsible for the delay. Furthermore, railway operators must guarantee the accessibility of stations, platforms and means of transport by eliminating all obstacles to boarding, disembarkation and remaining on board. And in future, all trains should provide a specially designated area of the train for baby carriages, bicycles and sports equipment.
Towards a European licence for train drivers
Gilles Savary saw his report on certification of train drivers adopted unanimously. Whereas the Council wishes only train drivers to be covered by the directive, the Committee feels that other crew members performing safety-related tasks should be in possession of a certificate attesting that they meet minimum requirements relating to medical fitness, basic education and general professional skills. (EP Press)