The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to clarify the assistance to be provided to disabled persons on board buses and coaches

03/06/2013
Question Posed To: 
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport

MINISTER’S STATEMENT

Regulation (EU) 181/2011, which came into effect on the 1 March 2013, provides for
a minimum set of rights for passengers travelling by bus and coach services within
the European Union.
The Regulation applies in the main to “regular services”. These are services provided at

specified intervals along specified routes with passengers being picked
up and set down at predetermined stopping points, where the boarding or alighting
point of the passengers is situated in the territory of a Member State. Some rights
are also prescribed for occasional or non-scheduled services.
Besides the general passenger rights available under the EU Regulation, disabled
persons and persons with reduced mobility have specified rights when using regular
bus and coach services, in order to allow them to enjoy the same possibilities to
travel and rights as other people, including -
— the right to access to transport for disabled persons and persons with reduced
mobility at no additional cost,
— the right to special assistance, and,
— the right for compensation for loss of or damage to mobility equipment.
With regard to the right to special assistance under Article 13 of the EU Regulation,
in the case of long-distance regular services (i.e. those services exceeding 250KM n
distance), carriers and terminal management bodies must provide, within their
respective areás of competence, assistance free of charge to disabled persons and
persons with reduced mobility.
 Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have to notify the carrier about
their specific needs at the latest 36 hours before the assistance is needed, and have
to present themselves at the designated point of the bus terminal at the agreed time
before the departure time. This cannot be more than 60 minutes prior to the
scheduled departure time.
The Regulation provides for Member States to apply an exemption for domestic
regular services over 250km from certain aspects of the EU Regulation, including
significant elements of the Chapter relating to the rights of persons with reduced
mobility. In addition, for services of lesser distance than 250km an exemption can
be sought under the EU Regulation with regard to disability awareness training for
drivers and other personnel for a period of time.
My Department last year consulted directly with stakeholders on the application of
the EU Regulation, which included both consumer groups and the bus and coach
industry. From the responses received there was broad support for full application of
the EU Regulation, which would promote a better service for people with disabilities
and reduced mobility.
Therefore, no exemptions will be applied to the application of the EU Regulations in
the State. Following, consultation between my Department and the Department for
Regional Development Northern Ireland, there is a common understanding between
the Authority in Northern Ireland and the Department is that the full suite of rights
under the EU Regulation should apply to cross-border bus and coach services from
the 1 March 2013.
Under Article 25 of the EU Regulation there is an obligation on all carriers and
terminal managing bodies to ensure that passengers, including people with disability
and reduced mobility, are provided with appropriate and comprehensible information
concerning their rights under the EU Regulation.
At the request of a disabled person or person with reduced mobility the information
must be provided, where feasible, in an accessible format.
It is envisaged that the National Transport Authority (NTA) will be designated as the
national enforcement body for the purposes of the EU Regulation. The NTA will have
responsibility for administration of a system of complaints and enforcement with
 regard to compliance with the EU Regulation. I intend making regulations in this
regard shortly.
Comprehensive information concerning the full extent of the EU Regulations is being
made available on my Departments website and it is intended that all bus and coach
operators will be contacted directly concerning their responsibilities in this regard.