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The rights you have as a traveller in the event of strikes and delays on buses, trains and ships

Within Europe, strikes are usually announced at very short notice. Travellers then have to react quickly. Thanks to good information campaigns, many people are now aware of their rights in the event of airline strikes. But how do passenger rights compare for rail, bus and ship transport?

Rail passengers have EU-wide rights when rail staff go on strike and delays or cancellations occur as a result. If it is foreseeable that the train will arrive at its destination more than 60 minutes late, the passenger does not have to start the journey and can demand reimbursement of the fare. If the passenger is already en route and it is foreseeable that the train will arrive at its destination with a delay of more than 60 minutes, he or she may request a (pro rata) refund of the ticket price as well as a return journey to the place of departure or rebooking on another connection.

If no alternative is offered within 100 minutes of the scheduled departure time, the passenger can book an alternative train or bus connection himself or herself and charge the railway undertaking. However, those who book themselves are not entitled to a refund.

50 per cent fare reimbursement from a two-hour delay by train

Those who reach their destination more than 60 minutes late receive additional compensation of 25 per cent of the fare; from 120 minutes onwards, rail passengers are entitled to 50 per cent.

In long-distance transport, the railway company must also offer passengers food and drink from a delay of more than 60 minutes, provided that these are available on the train or at the station or can be obtained with reasonable effort.

The European Consumer Centre Germany offers further information on the rights of rail passengers in the EU and access to a practical online guide of the European Consumer Centre (ECC). These can be found here.

When the train doesn't show up

In case of strike-related problems on a bus journey of more than 250 kilometres within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, the EU Passenger Rights Regulation provides for claims in case of delay or cancellation of the journey.

If the departure is cancelled or delayed by more than 120 minutes, passengers are entitled to reimbursement of the ticket price or rebooking on another connection.

If the bus company does not offer these options, passengers are also entitled to compensation amounting to 50 per cent of the ticket price. However, this only applies to journeys from a bus station, not to journeys from a bus stop.

In the event of an original journey duration of more than three hours and a strike-related cancellation or delay of more than 90 minutes, the following applies: Passengers who have booked a journey from a bus station are entitled to reasonable assistance in the form of snacks and refreshments and, if applicable, reimbursement of the costs for up to two overnight stays (maximum 80 euros per night).

If the bus journey is part of a package tour, a strike may also constitute a travel defect..

Cruise cancelled due to strike

Even in the event of problems with strike-related delays and cancellations on a cruise that is not a cruise, an EU regulation provides for compensation and information claims. In addition, refreshments and meals must be provided, as well as hotel accommodation in some circumstances.

In the event of delays of more than 90 minutes or cancellations, ship passengers have the choice between re-routing at the earliest possible time at no additional cost or reimbursement of the fare and a free return to the point of departure.

In the case of delays, the amount of compensation is based on the duration of the delay and the duration of the scheduled journey, for example 25 per cent of the fare for a delay of at least one hour and a scheduled journey duration of up to four hours.

In the case of strikes, as with air travel, these claims only apply if the strike does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance for the company.

For cruises, on the other hand, the package travel law applies. According to this, a strike can constitute a travel defect and entitle the passenger to a reduction in the price of the cruise or to compensation for damages.

This article is from the 3/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.