8th December 2010
BUS AND COACH PASSENGERS WIN EQUAL TREATMENT WITH NEW EU RULES
Bus and coach passengers have won new rights similar to those enjoyed by people who travel by plane and train.
Euro-MPs and EU governments have agreed to give passengers on long distance bus journeys (250km, the equivalent of London to Sheffield) new rights to compensation for major delays, cancellations and overbooking, as well as for lost or damaged luggage.
Disabled passengers are also set to benefit with new requirements for all scheduled coach and bus operators to ensure their staff are trained in how to assist people with disabilities.
Talks have been going on for months to try to find a deal to extend existing EU rights to bus and coach passengers, while avoiding placing too onerous requirements on the companies running these services, which are often much smaller businesses than in the aviation and rail sector.
Labour's Stephen Hughes MEP, has welcomed the deal: "With this agreement, all passengers are treated on the same footing. Whether they travel by plane, train, ferry or bus, people will have similar rights to assistance, information and compensation when services are delayed.
"We've worked hard to deliver legislation that will make sure passengers are treated fairly, without placing too big a burden on the companies offering bus and coach services."
The deal still needs formal approval by the European Parliament in February. It will then take two years for the new rules to come into force.
Specific provisions aim to make both long-distance and local bus services more accessible for people with disabilities. Brain Simpson welcomed these changes: "Britain is already a long way ahead in making public transport more accessible, but one of the biggest complaints I hear from disabled passengers is that staff don't understand how to adapt to their needs. It often doesn't take much to make a bus service more accessible, and under these new rules information on these issues will be incorporated into bus and coach staff training.
"For example, if a blind person travels by bus they need to know where to get off. It might just take the simple step of a driver announcing each stop to enable that person to travel independently and with confidence."
Notes for editors
The agreement introduces a number of new rights for passengers on bus or coach journeys of 250km or more, including:
Passengers will be reimbursed or rerouted if services are cancelled, overbooked or delayed for more than two hours after the estimated time of departure.
In the event of such lengthy delays, passengers can demand a full refund of their tickets or alternative transport to their destination, and are entitled to additional compensation worth 50% of the cost of the ticket. Exceptions will only be granted in the event of natural disasters or extreme weather conditions.
Compensation in the event of damaged luggage
A right to up to two nights in a hotel if cancellations or delays require an unexpected overnight stay.
If a disabled passenger is refused access to a long-distance bus journey because of their disability, they will have the right to ask for someone to be able to accompany them free of charge to give them the assistance needed to enable them to travel.
Disabled people on long-distance journeys will also be entitled to free assistance in terminals and on buses/coaches, on condition that the carrier is notified of the disabled person's needs when the reservation is made or at least 36 hours before boarding.