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New regulation to facilitate pan European rail journey

European Commission to push for pan European passenger rail ticketing

The European Commission has adopted a new regulation to facilitate pan European rail journey planning and ticketing, by forcing a standardisation of rail passenger data on fares and timetables. 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 will in 2012 bring forward a complementary legal measure requiring rail operators to bring their IT systems and practices into line, so that the standardised data can in practice be transferred between operators. These measures lay the technical foundations to allow a new generation of European rail journey planners and ticketing systems to start to emerge on market.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "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. 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. 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."

Railways have evolved with a national focus. Today this manifests itself in widely differing booking systems, based on data which is processed in different ways and is largely not interchangeable. The result, for passengers, is very limited possibilities to book rail tickets cross border (with the exception of a small number of major international direct cross border rail routes). This is unlike the situation in competing modes, eg the airline industry which has evolved serving mainly cross border routes and where the journey planning and ticketing are widely and easily available on a pan-European basis (built largely on the use of a common central reservation system Amadeus).

The new EU technical regulation adopted today – Telematics Applications for Passenger Services – will force the standardisation of data relating to timetables and fares. This is the basic data underpinning journey planning, reservation and ticketing systems, for example data relating to: what kind of train is running, when the train stops, where it stops, what kind of accommodation is available eg first and second class seats; how many unreserved seats are available, tariff structures etc. Importantly, the Regulation also legally requires operators to make data related to timetabling available in the public domain, as well as to make fare information available to agreed partners.

In 2012, the Commission will bring forward a complementing measure, to guide all railway companies and ticket vendors in adapting their IT data systems so that they are in line with EU wide standards and data can in practice be exchanged and used by all operators in different rail booking and ticketing systems throughout Europe.

Taken together these measures lay the technical foundations for a new generation of pan European rail passenger journey planners and ticketing tools to start to come on the market in the following years.

The Commission is in the process of assessing the need for further measures to remove barriers that are holding back the development of cross border rail and, more broadly, multi modal travel planning and ticketing.

The Commission has also recently launched (April 1st 2011) a public consultation "Towards a European Multi-Modal Journey Planner" (Consultation period: 1/04/2011 – 27/05/2011) which will also feed into this process.

The European Commission is organising in Lyons on 6 June 2011 a major Conference on Intelligent Transport in Europe where, in a key note speech European Commission Vice President Kallas, responsible for Transport, will set out in more detail proposals for next steps in this area.