Your rights when travelling in the EU by train or bus

Introduction

When you are travelling by train or bus in the EU and things go wrong, you have a number of rights. These cover delays, cancellations, lost luggage and injury to passengers.

Under EU legislation, travel operators have some basic obligations. They have to:

  • Provide information and assistance
  • Ensure all passengers are treated fairly and equally
  • Resolve issues caused by delays or cancellations

Travel operators include transport companies (which run trains and buses) and also companies that operate terminals such as train stations and bus stations.

COVID-19 and travel disruptions

Our document Travel plans and COVID-19 has updated information on your rights if your travel plans have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travelling by train

Passengers travelling by train within the EU have certain rights under EU rules. For train passengers in Ireland, Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) has its own Customer Charter. It sets out the standards of service you should expect and deals with issues such as ticket refunds, compensation payments and complaints procedures.

Rules on train services in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU

When you are travelling by train in Ireland and other EU countries, a train operator must:

  • Make it easy for you to buy tickets
  • Ensure your personal safety in train stations and on trains
  • Provide compensation if it is responsible for losing or damaging your luggage
  • Provide compensation in the event of the death or injury of a passenger
  • Have adequate insurance in place
  • Not discriminate against passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility
  • Provide information on the accessibility of rail services – see ‘Passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility’ below

Rules for international rail services

There are additional EU rules to protect passengers using international rail services (for example, Dublin to Belfast services). Some rules are mandatory, which means that train operators must follow them. These include rules on buying tickets and the transport operator’s responsibility (liability) for passengers and luggage, as follows:

Availability of tickets

Tickets must be available from at least one of these points of sale:

  • Ticket offices or ticket machines at main train stations
  • Phone, internet or any other widely available information technology
  • On board trains

If there is no ticket office or ticket machine at a station, there should be a notice to tell you where and how to buy tickets.

Liability for passengers and luggage

In the event of death or injury, and where the train operator is responsible, or liable, you and your dependants are entitled to compensation. This applies if the accident took place while you were on the train or while you were boarding or leaving the train

If your luggage is lost or damaged, and the train operator is liable, you are entitled to:

  • Compensation of up to €1,400 for damaged or lost hand luggage, including animals
  • Compensation of between €300 and €1,200 per piece if registered luggage (extra, heavy or oversized luggage placed in a designated area of the train) is lost or damaged (unless it was due to circumstances beyond the control of the train operator). Registered luggage is considered lost when it has not been delivered within 14 days of the scheduled delivery date.

However , some EU rail passenger rights rules are not mandatory, which means that EU Member States can decide to exclude some of their train services from the rules. These exemptions can apply to local, commuter and intercity domestic train services as well as international trains that start or finish their journeys outside the EU. These include rules on travel information, delays and cancellations, as follows:

Travel information (applies in Ireland)

When you buy a ticket, you must be given clear information about:

  • General conditions that apply to the journey
  • Timetables and conditions for the lowest fares and the fastest trips
  • Information on anything that is likely to cancel or delay services
  • What onboard services are available
  • How to claim for lost luggage and make a complaint

During the journey, you must be given clear information about:

  • On board services
  • The next station
  • Security and safety issues
  • Connecting services
  • Delays and cancellations in real time
  • Your rights if there are delays or cancellations

Delays and cancellations (applies in Ireland)

If it seems likely that your train will be more than 60 minutes late, the train operator has to provide ‘care and assistance’ free of charge. This can include:

  • Meals and refreshments (for example, teas, coffees and non-alcoholic beverages) that are suitable for the waiting time and if available on the train or in the station
  • Accommodation, and transport between the station and accommodation, where a stay of more than 1 night is necessary.
  • Alternative travel arrangements

In addition, you should be offered a choice between:

  • Getting a refund of the full cost of the ticket for the parts of your journey you have not made. You can also get a refund for the parts of the journey you have already made (if you are not going to continue to your destination). In addition, you can get a free ticket to take you back to the first point of your departure, as soon as possible.
  • Continuing your journey as planned or re-routing, under similar transport conditions (for example, another train service if available), to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later, more convenient date.

If you choose to continue your journey as planned, or accept re-routing, to your destination, you may still be entitled to compensation:

  • 25% of the ticket price for a delay of between 1 hour and 2 hours
  • 50% of the ticket price for a delay of more than 2 hours

You have no right to a refund or any compensation if you were told of the delay before you bought your ticket or if it was due to circumstances outside the control of the train operator.

Travelling by bus or coach

You have certain rights when travelling by bus or coach within the EU. These EU rules apply to:

  • Journeys that begin and end within the EU
  • Regular services that operate along specified routes with scheduled stopping points

Bus companies running regular bus services of any distance must:

  • Sell tickets without any discrimination based on your nationality or where you live (for example, they must not set different prices for people of different nationalities)
  • Provide good information throughout the journey, including information on your rights and contact details for the Irish National Transport Authority or, if travelling in another EU country details for another national enforcement body (NEB)
  • Provide a complaints system so you can avail of your rights

When travelling on a regular bus service with a scheduled distance of more than 250km, you have more rights:

  • Tickets – You must be issued with a ticket (paper copy or an e-ticket) or another document giving you the right to travel.
  • Compensation and help if there is an accident – You are entitled to compensation for death or personal injury and for luggage that is lost or damaged due to an accident. You also have the right to reasonable assistance (such as accommodation, food, clothes, transport and first aid) immediately after an accident.
  • Information when the service is cancelled or delayed – The bus operator should inform you about the situation within 30 minutes of the time the bus was due to depart. They should also tell you the time it is likely to depart and should explain the possible alternative ways to get to your destination if you will miss a connection.
  • Re-routing or refund – Where the service has been over-booked, cancelled or delayed by more than 2 hours, you have the right to choose re-routing to your final destination or to get a refund of the full ticket price. If you have not been offered this choice, you have the right to a refund plus additional compensation amounting to 50% of the ticket price.
  • Help if there is a cancellation or long delay – The bus operator must offer snacks, meals or refreshments (for example, teas, coffees and non-alcoholic beverages), that are suitable for the waiting time, if the delay is more than 90 minutes or the service has been cancelled.

Passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility

There are rules to make sure that all travel operators treat passengers with disabilities or with reduced mobility fairly and equally.

In general, you should be given information about your rights and the accessibility of the service. They must give you the appropriate help you need.

You also have the following rights:

Right to access and a ticket

You have the right to get a ticket, book a seat and use transport services in the same way as other passengers. You should not be discriminated against or charged extra. However, you may be refused travel if the service cannot be provided safely. For example, this could relate to the layout of the bus or train, or the boarding points, or the type of seats or luggage racks.

In most cases, if the transport operator refuses you a ticket or a reservation, or requires you to bring a helper, they must immediately tell you why. If you request written confirmation, they must send it to you within 5 working days.

Assistance

You have to give notice of the help you will need. The travel operator should then give the assistance free of charge. The following conditions generally apply:

  • Train – You must inform the train operator at least 48 hours before you plan to travel. Irish Rail asks for 24 hours’ notice. You must arrive at the station at the time stated. But the train operator cannot insist you arrive more than 60 minutes before the departure time or the check-in time.

    If they do not give you a specific arrival time, you should arrive 30 minutes before the departure time.

  • Bus or coach – If you will need help at a bus terminal and on board the coach, you must give at least 36 hours’ notice before you plan to travel and . If you need someone to come with you to help you, they must be allowed to travel free of charge. You should inform the travel operator, before you travel, about your specific requirements.

You may be entitled to a refund or re-routing if:

  • You have a ticket or a reservation, and
  • You have told the travel operator about your specific needs, and
  • You are not allowed to travel because of your disability or reduced mobility

Loss or damage to mobility equipment

You are entitled to compensation if your mobility equipment (or other equipment) is lost or damaged and the fault lies with the travel operator. The travel operator should do their best to provide suitable temporary replacement equipment.

Your Europe has more information about rights for travellers with reduced mobility. Irish Rail also provides information on rail accessibility and a guide for rail passengers with disabilities (pdf).

How to make a complaint

If you are not satisfied with how a travel operator has handled an issue, you can complain to them directly.

First, you will need to contact the travel operator to find out exactly how to make a complaint to them.

You should then make your complaint following their instructions and within certain time limits. For train, you must make the complaint within 2 months and for bus and coach, it must be within 3 months of the incident. You must receive a reply within 1 month, informing you that the complaint has been accepted or rejected or if it is still being considered.

If you are not satisfied with the response, you can take your complaint to the relevant national enforcement body (NEB). The body responsible for enforcing rail and coach passenger legislation in Ireland is the National Transport Authority (NTA). The NTA is a statutory non-commercial body established in 2019 by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Rail or bus and coach complaints

If you cannot resolve your complaint or the travel operator refuses to pay compensation, you can consider court action. If your claim for compensation is not over €2,000, you use the small claims procedure. For cross-border disputes within the EU, if the amount you are claiming is not over €5,000, you can use the European small claims procedure.

Further information

You can find out more information about:

National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for enforcing rail and coach passenger legislation in Ireland. It is the National Enforcement Body (NEB) in Ireland.

The NTA has more information about your:

Your Europe has more information about EU passenger rights.

National Transport Authority

Public Transport Services Division (Rail Passengers’ Rights)

Dún Scéine
Iveagh Court
Harcourt Lane
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel: (01) 879 8300
Fax: (01) 879 8333

ECC Ireland

Macro Centre
1 Green Street
Dublin 7
D07 X6NR
Ireland

Tel: (01) 879 7620
Fax: (01) 873 4328

Iarnród Éireann

Head Office
Connolly Station
Dublin 1
Ireland

Tel: (01) 8366 222
Locall: 1850 366 222

Courts Service

15-24 Phoenix Street North
Smithfield
Dublin 7
Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)1 888 6000
Page edited: 25 June 2020