Arduous negotiations on opening up European rail transport to competition and establishing minimum passenger rights neared an end as MEPs confirmed a compromise deal struck in June with the Council, which would allow passengers to be compensated financially for international train delays.

On 25 September, MEPs approved a conciliation deal struck with the Council in June to further liberalise European railway services. The main elements of the deal are: 

  • International passenger rail services will be opened up to competition as of 1 January 2010. Within two years of that date, the Commission will have to reassess the situation to see whether liberalisation of domestic services – as had been demanded by the UK, Germany and Italy – should be envisaged. France, Belgium and Luxembourg had led the opposition to allowing other member states to carry out services within their territory. 
  • As of 2009, when the Directive enters into force, all rail passengers, both on international and domestic journeys, will enjoy a set of basic rights, including company liability for passengers and their luggage and the right to take a bike on board. Rail companies will also have to ensure that people with reduced mobility are able to use their services, even at unmanned stations. 
  • Extended rights, including compulsory compensation of travellers (of 25% of the fare for a delay of one hour, or of 50% in case of delays of 2 hours or more), will at first be limited to cross-border services. However, member states will be able to exclude some services from these provisions for up to 15 years, and urban and regional services may be granted an indefinite exemption. 
  • All train drivers will have to hold a certificate recognising that they meet minimum requirements in terms of medical fitness, basic education and general professional skills. The aim is to enhance safety on European railways, while facilitating professional mobility and cross-border services. Other crew members will not be subject to such a licensing system, but MEPs obtained that the Commission must look into this further within one year of the Directive's implementation and, if necessary, present a new proposal to include other train staff performing safety-critical tasks.