Under new Commission proposals, the transportation of passengers by rail should be liberalised from 2010 and the EU rail passengers would get the same level of compensation in case of delayed trains.
The Commission put forward a third railway package on 3 March 2004, even before the closing of the conciliation procedure on the second railway package. The new package contains four proposals:
- a directive on the liberalisation of passenger transport;
- a draft directive introducing an EU license for train drivers;
- a regulation on punctuality and compensation for late arrivals;
- a regulation on the rights and obligations of passengers in international transport.
The most sensitive issue of this package is the opening up of the market for transporting passengers. The Commission proposes that from 1 January 2010, railway companies should be able to operate international services in the Community. If that deadline were to be agreed, existing services such as Thalys and Eurostar could expect to face private sector competitors from that date. The aim of this liberalisation is to stimulate more competition in??? international rail services which are facing increasing pressure from low-cost airlines. France, Luxembourg and Belgium in particular are reluctant to move too fast with the liberalisation given that the process is lekely to lead to job losses and union protests.
Another issue which is expected to trigger lively debate is the level of compensation that will be given to passengers where trains arrive late or are cancelled. This proposal follows a recently adopted regulation on compensation of passengers for delayed and cancelled flights.