Bus & Coach Passenger Rights

A new Regulation now finally passed (after a long and controversial adoption process) will extend bus and coach passenger rights and will aim to guarantee the same basic service quality standards wherever bus and coach passengers travel in the European Union.

The new legislation sets rules on liability in the event of death or injury of passengers and loss of or damage to their luggage, non-discriminatory access to transport, assistance for disabled persons, obligations in the event of cancellation or delay of a journey, handling of complaints and general rules on enforcement.

The aim is to establish EU-wide rights for the protection of bus and coach passengers comparable to those in other modes of transport, and to secure a “level playing field” between operators from different Member States.

Passengers have until now enjoyed better protection when traveling on water, by air and by rail. The Commission presented the proposal for Regulation on rights of passengers in bus and coach transport in 2008 but it took two years for the EU Institutions and Member States to agree on the rules covering all long-distance scheduled services.

The new Regulation  

Bus and coach passengers, and in particular passengers with a disability and people with a reduced mobility, will enjoy new rights that will protect them when they travel anywhere within the European Union. The Regulation shall apply to all regular services, national and cross-border, where the scheduled distance is equal to, or longer than, 250 km ('long distance'). Passengers travelling only a part of such a long-distance service are also covered.

A series of basic rights will apply also to passengers travelling over shorter scheduled distances. These rights focus in particular on the needs of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility such as non-discriminatory access to transport, the right to compensation for loss of, or damage to, wheelchairs or other mobility equipment, submission and handling of complaints, disability-related training of staff of buses or coaches and information to be provided during the journey.

Compensation and assistance in the event of accidents

Passengers are entitled to compensation for death, or personal injury as well as to loss of or damage to luggage due to accidents. National law cannot set a maximum amount lower than EUR 220.000 per passenger and EUR 1200 per item of luggage. Damage to assistive devices such as wheelchairs has to be compensated entirely

In the event of an accident passengers are entitled to assistance to cover their immediate practical needs, including provision of food and clothes, transport, facilitation of first assistance, and accommodation of up to EUR 80 per night and per passenger for a maximum of two nights

Rights of passengers in the event of cancellations or delay 

In case of cancellation, delay of more than 120 minutes or overbooking, passengers can choose between continuation of the journey or re-routing to their final destination at no additional cost or reimbursement of the ticket price. If the carrier fails to offer this choice, passengers shall have the right to compensation amounting to 50% of the ticket price, in addition to the reimbursement of the ticket price

Where the bus or coach becomes inoperable during the journey, the carrier should provide another vehicle to a suitable waiting point or terminal from where the continuation of the journey becomes possible

In the event of cancellation or delay passengers shall be provided with all necessary information

Where a journey of more than three hours is cancelled or delayed in departure for more than 90 minutes, assistance must also be offered in the form of the provision of snacks, meals or refreshments, as well as hotel accommodation of up to EUR 80 per night and per person, for a maximum of two nights. This obligation does not apply if the cancellation or delay is caused by severe weather conditions or major natural disasters

Rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility

Bus and coach companies are required to provide assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, provided that the passenger informs the company at the latest 36 hours before departure. If the operator is unable to provide suitable assistance, the passenger with reduced mobility may be accompanied at no extra cost by a companion of his choice.

Any loss of or damage to wheelchairs or other assistance equipment must be compensated by the company or the management body of the station responsible.

Additional basic rights (applicable to all services beyond or below 250 km):

• Non-discrimination against passengers based - directly or indirectly - on nationality,
• Non-discriminatory treatment of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility as well financial compensation for loss or damage of their mobility equipment in case of accident
• Minimum rules on travel information for all passengers before and during their journey as well as general information about their rights in terminals and online
• A complaint handling mechanisms by carriers available to all passengers
• Independent national bodies in each Member State with the mandate to enforce the Regulation and where appropriate to take penalties 

Time derogations

With the exception of the basic rights Member States may exempt domestic regular services from the application of the Regulation for a period no longer than four years, renewable once.

Next steps

After the Parliament’s vote, the procedure is completed and the Regulation is awaiting publication in the Official Journal before summer. The Regulation is due to enter into force in 2013 and the end of the transition period for implementing new rules is in 2017.

Now that EU passenger rights are covered for all transport modes, the Commission will prepare a Communication evaluating current EU legislation on passenger rights and reviewing the features by presenting the overall state of protection in all transport sectors.