David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

Towards simpler and more reliable travelling

The Caithness Courier, July 2015

Many of us who have travelled in Europe will know how difficult it can sometimes be to get reliable information on the different travel possibilities. Due to the complex and differing procedures of national operators the reservation process can be bewildering, especially if you’re wanting to use a combination of different modes of transport.

During July’s Strasbourg Plenary, MEPs supported a resolution calling on EU countries to improve and connect timetables and for transport providers to develop what is being called ‘integrated ticketing’.

The resolution requests that member states, by 2020 at the latest, introduce national updated timetables and fare information systems and that by 2024 these should be linked on a cross-border basis and made accessible to operators, providers of journey planners and consumers.

It is believed that allowing travellers to use a single ticket for a journey through multiple EU countries using several different transport modes will promote tourism and attract more passengers to public transport.

Although the reality of such a streamlined process is a long way off, it follows the efforts of the European Commission and Parliament to increase the reliability and reduce the risk of travel throughout the EU.

The European Parliament has already voted on several pieces of draft legislation designed to make the process of travelling, whether for work or pleasure, less formidable. We have asked why a misspelt name should incur a huge financial penalty and why passengers should be denied boarding or be subject to long delays without compensation.

EU citizens are covered by a range of rights when flying in Europe. I and my Labour colleagues in the European Parliament have supported improvements to flight legislation allowing passengers to make a claim for compensation. If national ministers approve the European Parliament vote, rules will mean passengers delayed by just three hours will be able to claim compensation and passengers who don't use an outbound ticket will not be prevented from using the return leg. We need to make sure that EU law works for passengers, protecting and enforcing their rights and preventing airlines from abdicating their responsibilities.

This year Labour MEPs also voted to give greater protection to holidaymakers by pushing for stronger rights when buying holiday package deals. These include the ability to transfer packages to another person and more easily cancel a package or gain compensation should a travel company go bust. Organisers of package holidays should also be responsible for the performance of all the travel services included in the package - such as flights, hotels and car hire - and in cases where the holiday should not be what was stated in the contract then the organiser obliged to provide assistance and supply alternative arrangements.

A holiday is often the highlight of the year, a time for the whole of the family to relax and spend quality time together. Effort needs to be made to make sure that poor information, bad luck or unfair and misleading practices do not turn a well-earned holiday into a stressful nightmare.

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