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Transport: passenger rights, compensation and complaints

Published Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This briefing paper provides information on passenger rights, compensation and how to make a complaint across four forms of transport: rail, bus and coach, air and sea (ferries and cruise ships).

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There has long been a ‘patchwork’ approach across transport modes towards passenger rights and compensation. The UK has long-established domestic rules which have gradually been supplanted by European ones in all four fields. However, the UK has ‘opted out’ of or applied exemptions from a number of EU requirements on different modes. It is as yet unclear what the impact of Brexit will be on these arrangements.

The biggest change in recent years has probably been for ferry and cruise ship passengers who now have a right to compensation and a formal complaints process where previously none existed.

That said, the two areas of greatest interest tend to be aviation and rail:

  • Air passengers’ rights are not dealt with in detail in this paper; there is a separate briefing available on the Parliament website (SN233).
  • Rail passengers often struggle to understand how the complex compensation system works, confused by the fact that there are different compensation arrangements for passengers and, separately, for train companies (from Network Rail). This has become particularly acute over the past 18 months as passengers on several train services have experienced delays and overcrowding due to major engineering and redesign works at busy London stations and other issues. The most recent change is the application of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to rail travel and the imminent roll out of delay/rep[ay compensation from 15 minutes.

Full details of the European rules on rights and compensation can be found on the Europa website.

The rights of those with a disability and persons with reduced mobility (PRMs) as regards access to transport are covered in a separate briefing paper (SN601).

Information on other transport issues can be found on the Transport pages of the Parliament website.

Commons Briefing papers SN03163

Author: Louise Butcher

Topics: Aviation, Buses, Consumers, Railways, Shipping

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