The European Commission unveiled new rules on Thursday (5 May) intended to make it as easy for rail passengers to buy tickets and coordinate their travel plans as it is for air travellers.
Rail passengers currently face a patchwork of systems when planning trips through the EU's 27 member states, making it simpler for travellers to book air tickets instead.
But under a new EU regulation unveiled yesterday, reservation and ticket details will be standardised, allowing information exchanges between rail companies and ticket vendors.
"If we are serious about getting people onto rail, and particularly about having rail compete with air travel over middle distances, then we need to offer rail passengers the seamless planning and ticketing offers that match the airlines," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
"We want to make it as easy, in the future, to book a rail ticket from Barcelona to Brussels, or Berlin to Bratislava, as it is to book a corresponding flight," Kallas added.
The regulation requires operators to make timetabling open to the public and forces rail partners to share fare information.
"This means that key reservation and ticketing information will be inter-operable and can be exchanged between rail companies throughout the EU as well as ticket vendors," the Commission explained in a statement.
The EU will present a second regulation next year that will require rail operators to standardise their computer systems and practices to facilitate the transfer of data between them.
These technical changes establish the foundations for the launch of pan-European rail passenger journey planners and ticketing tools in coming years.
"Making common timetabling and fare information available to operators is a significant first step, but it is just the start of a much bigger push to make pan-European rail planning and ticketing a reality," Kallas said.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)