The agreements on the opening up of the rail market, a European licence for train drivers and rail passengers' rights were struck in June, after the Council had given in to a key Parliament demand. Parliament had asked for a five-yearly review of any exemptions that member states grant domestic railways from the rules on passenger rights.
At Parliament's request, international passenger rail services will be opened up to competition from 1 January 2010. Within two years of that date, the Commission will have to reassess the situation to see whether further liberalisation of domestic services should be envisaged. This demand had been voiced mainly by the UK, Germany and Italy whereas France, Belgium and Luxembourg had led the opposition.
The directive on a European licence for train drivers will apply from 2009. Following pressure from Parliament, the Council agreed that by 2012, other staff performing tasks critical for rail safety should also be subject to a similar system of licences. According to the agreement, the European Railway Agency (ERA) will draw up a report on this issue 18 months after the directive enters into force. As demanded by Parliament, the Commission has to present its response to the ERA report within a year.
Parliament also successfully managed to include passengers on domestic journeys into the regulation on the rights and obligations of rail passengers, which was originally intended to apply only to passengers on international journeys.
For an initial period of five years, member states may exempt long-distance domestic rail services from the regulation's provisions on non-basic rights (e.g. the right to take a bicycle on the train). This period may subsequently be extended for two further periods of up to five years. Urban, suburban and regional services may be granted an indefinite exemption from these same provisions.
In the event of delays on long-distance, cross-border services, the new agreement will grant passengers compensation of 25 percent of the fare for a delay of 60 minutes and 50 percent for a delay of at least two hours, but only if the operator can be held responsible.
The chair of Parliament's negotiating team, Vice-President Alejo Vidal-Quadra, had welcomed the conciliation agreement by saying that "it gets away from old-fashioned obsessions with national borders and gives basic rights to passengers on all railway journeys and not just those on international services, as the Council wanted".