After the implementation of measures in the framework of Passenger Rights Regulation (PRR) being the core issue of the “spring Forum” on 27 April 2009, the “autumn Forum”, which was held on 07 October 2009 in Paris, highlighted necessary follow-up activities, when the PRR finally enters into force on 03 December 2009.
So it was Jacques Dirand from the Community of European Railways (CER) who addressed right at the beginning of the Forum those members who are likely not able to comply with all requirements stemming from PRR. He strongly recommended to them to apply to their government for exceptions. Although no deadline for application of such exemptions is specified in the Regulation itself, he emphasised that it would be wiser to apply for an exemption now, which means in any case before 03/12/2009. Applications submitted after this date would lead to a situation where passenger rights once granted by law will be withdrawn again by initiative of the railways, which would provide a false signal of their customer orientation and is likely to provoke po-litical pressure from consumer organisations.
The subsequent reports of the Commercial and Technical Groups of the Passenger Forum formed traditionally the core of the Forum meeting.
Starting with the Commercial Group, Alexander Masalowicz announced that a chap-ter of European railway history would be closed with the abolishment of the TCV agreement on international passenger tariffs after a bit more than 50 years of existence. The preparation for PRR and the general change in strategies of creating in-ternational tariffs over the past two decades – going more and more away from dis-tance-based tariff schemes towards “airline-like” point-to-point offers based on yield management – resulted consequently into a completely new drafting of international tariff agreements.
The new agreement replacing TCV is named
(Special Conditions of International Carriage for Non-integrated-Reservation Tickets)
It will be accompanied by two separate agreements:
(for Integrated-Reservation Tickets, or the so-called “global price” tickets) and
(for Rail Pass Tickets, e.g. tickets allowing unlimited travel within a given time).
The subsequent report of the Technical Group was characterised by the increasing involvement of the work of this group in the TSI TAP process. TSI TAP are the “Technical Specifications for Interoperability for Telematics Applications for Passengers”, which cover every form of electronic message exchange related to passenger trains, like e.g. reservation systems, real-time customer information, but also the in-terface between train and infrastructure (operational monitoring). Achieving interoperability in this area is a huge task; the process is led by the European Railway Agency (ERA) on behalf of the European Commission, and the active involvement of railway undertakings in it is of utmost importance.
The report of the groups was followed by a presentation of Thomas Leimgruber, Secretary General of CIT, who recalled the complex process of changing the legal framework due to PRR. His conclusion was that interoperability of railways should be accompanied by “making law interoperable”, so his presentation came at the very right moment of the agenda so far.
The afternoon was characterised by the submission of new project proposals for the year 2010 and the “indispensable” budget discussion. It is no secret that funds have become scarce in times of economic crisis and its impact on railway business. On the one hand, it is indeed a challenge for UIC to call for funds in such hard times; on the other hand it can be seen as a chance to prove that UIC work is deemed valuable and necessary even under tight circumstances.
The Forum was closed with a warm farewell from the President, Cécile Queille, to Dr Wolfgang Zoller. Wolfgang has been chairman of the Commercial Group for many years, and involved in international rail passenger business for much longer. He will be followed by Marc Giesen from Deutsche Bahn (DB). Marc will take over his task of Chairman of the Commercial Group and ensure continuity of a successful work.