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Monthly Archives: julio 2012




 

Passenger rights are all very well, but what about the passenger experience, asks John Gilbert

European commission vice-president for transport Siim Kallas has made passenger rights one of his policy priorities. Earlier this year, he scored a success with the adoption of new measures to apply common rules to bus and coach operators. Straight away, Eurolines saw the significance of this as more of an opportunity than a threat.

The proposals for bus and coach passenger rights would improve the performance of the worst-performing operator - and this was good news to companies like Eurolines, which pride themselves on good standards of customer service. We met with members of the transport committee working on the dossier so that we could share with them our practical experience of operating long distance cross-border services.

It was useful for members to understand the difficulties of putting in place some of the original commission's proposals which would have imposed prohibitive costs and even put some good operators out of business.

The key message for policymakers to understand was that although some basic rights were required to squeeze out the rogue operators, heavy-handed regulation would only force up the price of tickets, meaning passengers would travel instead on low-cost airlines.

This would have had the perverse consequence of increasing carbon emissions in the transport sector. Coach travel is, per head, one of the greenest ways to travel and it was important that the commission encouraged an increase in coach travel to keep emissions low rather than reduce it. This was an important part of our message to MEPs, ministers and of course the commissioner.

It became clear to us when engaging with the EU institutions that there was a very limited understanding of the bus and coach sector. Did the MEPs voting on this really understand our passengers and what was important to them? While our passengers no doubt welcome the new rights they will have in EU law, what is more important to them are the facilities they might require at bus stations, the location of the city centre terminals and the ability to connect easily from another form of transport. Passenger rights alone will not improve the passenger experience.

That is why we believe the European commission can do more to improve the overall passenger experience. The commission has long trumpeted the need for inter-modality, but our experience is that the ability to connect with trains or planes is getting worse, not better. Eurolines has been talking to the European rail and airport sectors to try to find an agreement on a roadmap which commits the authorities to tackling the obstacles to interconnectivity. But policymakers need to play their part too.

The recently-published transport white paper gives only a cursory nod to the need for improving infrastructure for inter'- modality. The draft strategy has nothing at all to say on the lack of accessible, centrally located, secure and equipped coach terminals or centralised multimodal transport hubs in the major European cities.

This is a missed opportunity for the commission to support coach passengers and tackle the enduring obstacles that passengers face. Bus and coach travel are on the rise again and some are even talking about a new age of the coach being around the corner.

Operators like Eurolines have improved their fleet to make the journey even more comfortable, but transport authorities should do their bit also to help improve the passenger experience.