EU agrees new rights to benefit disabled and older bus passengers
On 15th February 2011, disabled people, and those with mobility problems, across the European Union won important new rights to travel on buses and coaches. UK charities are celebrating this success after a strong campaign lead in this country by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Sense, Age UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Guide Dogs, Radar and RNID.
Key gains for disabled and older people include accessible travel information both before and during the journey, mandatory disability
awareness training for all drivers and a right to compensation for damaged wheelchairs or other assistive equipment. In addition,
information about passenger rights will become available in terminals and online.
Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved this Regulation, which will come into force in 2013. Importantly they will apply to all journeys, including local bus services.
Fazilet Hadi, RNIB Group Director, Inclusive Society says: "This is a fantastic victory for disabled people! For blind and partially sighted
people being able to use a bus service means greater opportunities for employment, further education and social activities like seeing your
family. It's key to independence and quality of life. RNIB thanks all the MEPs who have supported the campaign and their disabled
The European Parliament vote follows the approval of the text on 31 January 2011 by EU governments, including the UK government.
UK charities will continue to campaign to see these regulations implemented without delay, in line with commitments made when the UK
government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Sue Brown, Head of Public Policy at Sense, the national deafblind charity, says: "More accessible travel means disabled people can
participate more in society, so Sense welcomes the European Parliament's decision. Getting about is something a lot of us take for granted and disability awareness training for transport staff and accessible travel information means more deafblind people can understand and use public transport to go to work, doctors' appointments and visit family and friends. We hope UK and other EU governments will take this opportunity to make public transport part of a fair society."
Sue Sharp, Head of Public Policy and Campaigns at Guide Dogs, says: "Disabled people rely on bus services more than non-disabled people. This regulation will make a real difference by making those journeys easier and less stressful. We are delighted at the support of MEPs in helping to secure these important changes for disabled people across Europe."
Guy Parckar, acting director of Policy and Campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability says: "This is very positive news. Restrictions when using transport are among the biggest barriers to social inclusion for disabled people. This change should help to build a transport network
that is more user-friendly and accessible."
Marije Davidson, Public Affairs Manager at Radar, says: "This is a real step towards accessibility for disabled people. Despite disability
discrimination legislation, disabled people still experience negative attitudes and can't get on inaccessible buses. This will strengthen our rights and improve access to education and employment. Radar wants these measures to be implemented as quickly as possible."
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director, says: "This new EU law is great news for the 150 million Europeans in later life, including over
4.5 million older people in the UK who use local buses at least once a week. Bus services can be a lifeline, particularly for those with
reduced mobility. This regulation guarantees older people a right to transport, and should mean better service from drivers who now start to receive mandatory disability training."
Roger Wicks, RNID's Director of Research, Policy and Government Relations, says: "People with hearing loss often face unnecessary
communication barriers when trying to obtain information about everyday travel disruption or cancellations. These ground-breaking regulations, which require drivers and terminal staff to receive disability awareness training, will have a tremendous impact by making bus and coach travel more accessible for passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing."
For more information, please contact Yashoda Sutton, RNIB Media Relations Team, on 020 7391 2223, email email@example.com
The missing link on passengers' rights under EU law was finally put in place in Strasbourg on Tuesday when the European Parliament adopted new rules laying down greater rights for bus and coach passengers.
After two years of tricky negotiations, Parliament and the Member States have agreed on rules covering all long-distance scheduled services (250 kilometres or more), whether national or crossborder, starting in spring 2013.
For such services, the new law provides for compensation of 50% of the purchase price as well as a full refund of the ticket, if an operator cancels a service and cannot honour the transport contract, even by other routes or means of transport, following a delayed departure of at least two hours. Passengers who prefer not to go ahead with their trip following a cancelled departure or a two-hour delay will be entitled to a full refund.
If there is a delay of over 90 minutes according to the timetable, passengers must be given snacks and refreshments. If a trip is broken or if there is an accident or a delay requiring passengers to spend the night on the spot, the operator will also be required to offer up to two nights in a hotel at a maximum price of €80. The operator can only be exempted from these obligations if the problem is caused by natural disasters or weather conditions that prevent the journey taking place under safe conditions.
In addition, the operator must provide for a refund with a ceiling of no less than €1200 if luggage is lost or damaged. In the event of death or injury as the result of an accident, the operator will be liable for payment of up to €220,000 (or more, if national law so provides).
To enable smaller firms to adjust to the new rules, Parliament voted to allow Member States to exempt certain regular national services or those where an important part of the service is provided outside the EU, for a maximum of four years, renewable once.
At the same time, thanks to MEPs a package of twelve fundamental rights was approved which will apply to all regular services regardless of distance. These rights include information before and during a journey and the needs of people with disabilities or reduced mobility. Non-discriminatory access to transport is guaranteed, with full compensation if wheelchairs or other mobility equipment are lost or damaged.
Bus and coach staff must be trained, under the regulation, to provide appropriate assistance to reduced-mobility passengers who make a request at least 36 hours before a departure. If an operator is unable to provide suitable assistance, a reduced-mobility passenger will have the right to be accompanied at no extra cost by a person of his/her choice.
"This agreement is very important for transport and tourism. It embodies a strategic balance, as it protects smaller firms and will make life easier for people with disabilities", said Antonio Cancian (EPP, IT), who steered the legislation through Parliament.
Parliament adopted the legislation today under the co-decision procedure (third reading conciliation agreement) by 504 votes to 63 with 89 abstentions.