Tuesday 19 May 2009

Passenger Forum: On the way to Passenger Rights implementation

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The UIC Passenger Forum of 28 April in Paris took place clearly in the light of the so-called Passenger Rights Regulation (EU Regulation 1371/2007), due to enter into force on 3 December this year. A range of activities are to be undertaken within the two years the EU Regu¬lation allowed the Member States to prepare themselves for the new situation.

The chairwoman, Mrs Queille (SNCF), welcomed the participants. Prior to the presentation of the various working bodies, she informed the plenary that Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux was appointed as the new General Director of UIC by the General Assembly on 31 March.
Moreover, she provided information about the fact that Mr Wolfgang Zoller (DB) would retire from his function as chairman of the Commercial Group. She thanked him for his work and the valuable input he contributed to UIC and proposed Mr Marc Giesen (DB) as his successor. The Forum unanimously welcomed Mr Giesen in as new chairman of the Commercial Group.
Mr Oliver Sellnick, Director of Department Railway Undertakings, reported that the new statutes of the UIC were approved and added some information about new top-level appointments at UIC and CER: Mr Yoshio Ishida (JR East) has been appointed as the new UIC President and Mr Mauro Moretti (Trenitalia) as UIC Vice-President. Mr Moretti has also been appointed as CER President.
Furthermore, he announced Mr Oliver Haferbeck as the new DB representative to the Forum and he warmly welcomed the Taiwan High Speed Rail Company as a new member of UIC.
After these preliminaries, Mrs Queille drew attention to point one of the agenda, which focused on the consequences of the Passenger Rights Regulation. In close cooperation with CIT, several working groups tackled different aspect of the new legal requirements and presented their encouraging results to the Forum.

A new legal framework for a new railway world

The major challenge for the CIV Committee and its working group consisted in a thorough re¬view of the rather “traditional” CIV framework of international railway tariffs and conditions. Railway offers have evolved: So-called global price tickets with restrictions of use, but at the same time offering considerable discount opportunities for the customers, prevail today in the offer of competitive high-speed train services, which are often regarded as a point-to-point offer, comparable to airline traffic. Nevertheless, the “classical” international ticket with its freedom to use on whatever train within two months is not at all dead. Both offers follow different sales strategies and target at different customer groups, so that logically different forms of carriage contracts must apply. All these aspects had to be considered and finally led to a modular approach, by creating a basic package (“General Conditions of Carriage”), which represents a common denominator, to be complemented by individual arrangements adopted to the specific range of products marketed by each carrier (“Special Conditions of Carriage”). Now, it is time to communicate this new contractual situation to the responsible sales staff in order to prepare its implementation into daily business. For this purpose, CIT and UIC will jointly organise a workshop on 30 June at UIC Headquarters in Paris.

Making railways accessible for all

A special chapter of the Regulation is dedicated to passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). This group of passengers does not exclusively consist of persons with physical or mental handicaps, but also of those, who only suffer from temporary impairments in their ability to move, be it because of pregnancy or simply by carrying heavy luggage. It is in the proper interest of railways to offer mobility to those who need them most, thus to comply with this part of the Regulation should not cause major headache, but rather serve as an incentive to intensify the efforts undertaken in collaboration with national governments in order to create a barrier-free railway system convenient to use for everyone. A close dialogue of the UIC with the European Disability Forum helps to understand the concrete needs of passengers for whom travelling by rail is not that easy as we would usually assume. Booking assistance services for PRM has become today fortunately a usual business for many railway undertakings at least for national services. More complex requests for international journeys might, however, create some new challenges. The report and recommendations of the chairman of the working group PRM were therefore welcomed very much at the Forum.

Towards interoperability on European level

Point two of the agenda was dedicated to the Telematic Applications for Passengers – Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TAP TSI). Mr Ugo Dell’Arciprete (Trenitalia) reported in his role as one of the official speakers of CER about the current status of the draft of these legally binding specifications. Mr Sellnick drew the attention to the point that the EC intended to put the development of the Strategic European Deployment Plan (SEDP) under the responsibility of the European Railway Agency (ERA) and to turn the SEDP into a regulation. However, in his opinion the SEDP should rather represent the commitment of the stakeholders, i.e. railway undertakings and Infrastructure Managers, to implement the TAP TSI than being simply imposed as a Regulation. So, discussions and political lobbying have to continue on this issue.

Progressing commercial and technical developments

The continuous development of the Multiple European Integrated Timetable Storage (MERITS) was focused under point three of the agenda. Mr Michael Stevns (UIC), responsible for the project at UIC, showed satisfied with the introduction of a polluter pay principle, which helped to ensure the reliability of data input from the members, thus led to a considerably improved data quality. He reported about more and more requests for access to MERITS data from third parties, i.e. from outside the “railway world”, which would make it now necessary to think about the conditions under which such access could be granted or not. In any case, these requests show that the MERITS project is on the right track and meets market requirements.
To break up the session before lunch, Mr Ugo Dell’Arciprete gave a very interesting presentation about the launch of Italy’s brand new high-speed services Freccia rossa (Red arrow).

The beginning of afternoon session was dedicated to the reports of the two permanent working groups: the Commercial and the Technical Group.
Main focus of the Commercial group is currently to implement the new requirements stemming from the Passenger Rights Regulation, such as establishing procedures for reimbursement of travel fees in case of delays or cancellations and to further develop the internationally standardised ticket layout relating to new informations to show on the tickets.
The Technical Group recently developed a standard for PRM assistance booking and concentrates on developing guidelines for purely electronic, i.e. paperless tickets.

Interesting presentations on the project “Train to Copenhagen” (Michael Stevns) and a joint presentation of Ákos Érsek (CER) and Michael Stevns on a trip to JR East in the framework of a benchmarking exercise made the Passenger Forum perfect.

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