When the review of the rail passengers’ rights was launched, we had high hopes. After all, with the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), we knew that EU institutions and Member States committed to provide equal access to transport for persons with disabilities.
At last, there was an opportunity for us to finally get the right to ‘turn up and go’, the right to make those spontaneous, last-minute trips that most people take for granted. Unfortunately, the political agreement (pdf) the European Parliament Transport committee is about to adopt doesn’t quite deliver that. What it does however, is shorten the length of the prenotification we need to give to rail companies to get assistance from 48 hours to 24 hours. But even that won’t happen straight away as Member States insisted on their right to postpone this provision until June 2026.
EDF President Yannis Vardastakanis said “To achieve equal access to rail transport we needed giant steps to be made – what we got instead are baby steps”
The political agreement includes some progressive provisions. For example, we’re pleased to see that the right to accessible information will be strengthened. It is also good to see that booking of assistance will be free and we also welcome better protection for our mobility equipment. But the overall impression is that of a missed opportunity to provide equal access to rail travel.
EDF Board Member Gunta Anca said “It is disappointing to see that urban and suburban services remain exempted; in the 21st Century, this surely cannot be described as progress.”
We also have concerns about restrictions that could see persons with disabilities face rail staff requests to prove their disability, for example if they had to board a train without a ticket. This, in combination with insufficient provisions about disability awareness training is a major concern. “Many barriers to access travel are the direct result of poor staff awareness about the needs of passengers with disabilities. Good training can make a huge difference. Unfortunately the deal falls well short of our expectations in this area” said Vardakastanis.
We are concerned about the fact that the regulation doesn’t specifically exclude requests for ‘proof of disability’. Many disabilities are invisible and not everyone has a formal document to prove that they are entitled to assistance. It is totally unacceptable for rail staff to request this information.
Last, but not least, we feel that our right to be involved in decision making, training and enforcement is not sufficiently recognised in the text. The EDF President said “We want to warmly thank those in the European Parliament who have been fighting for a better deal and share our disappointment. The fight for equality continues.”
We are urging TRAN MEPs to abstain during the vote on the deal on Thursday 29 October.