The season of holiday trips has begun and some of us will take the train. Apart from buying a ticket and packing suitcases, it is also worth getting acquainted with the rights of rail passengers. D.A.S. Towarzystwo Ubezpieczeń Ochrony Prawnej S.A. suggests what to remember and how to proceed in case of obstacles in the journey, including significant train delays.

The popularity of railways in Poland is growing from year to year. According to the Railway Transport Office, last year trains transported almost 292.6 million passengers, more than 12 million more than the year before, thus recording an increase of almost 4.4% y/y. Holidays are a time of increased traffic at the stations, which does not relieve the railway carriers of their responsibility to provide us with a comfortable journey and timely arrival at our destination.

A train passenger is also a customer

When we buy a train ticket to take us on holiday, to work or to a meeting, we make an agreement with the carrier that gives us certain rights. - Obligations of the carrier to duly fulfill the conditions of the agreement are born with the purchase of the ticket. Any failure to meet them and any complaints you may have about them is guaranteed by national and EU legislation. Therefore, it is worth knowing that when travelling by long-distance train, we can also apply for compensation for delays, e.g. when travelling through EU countries - indicates Marta Gradowska, D.A.S. expert.

When a train does not arrive on time

In rail travel, the most common problem for passengers is train delays. It is a nightmare for every traveller, especially when we have plans to change trains, or specific plans after arrival, such as a concert or a trip. In case of train delays, the most important rights are acquired after 1 hour of waiting. As the regulations indicate, when there is a reasonable assumption of more than 60 minutes delay in arrival at the destination, the passenger gains the right to: refund the cost of the purchased ticket, reroute and use the nearest possible connections to the final destination under comparable conditions, rebook at a later convenient date or travel free of charge to the place of departure at the earliest possible date when the onward journey is pointless, because you can no longer fulfil your original plans. Additionally, in case of long-distance trains, such as Express, Express InterCity, EuroCity, EuroNight, after one hour of waiting, the passenger is entitled to compensation amounting to 25% of the ticket price, and when the delay exceeds 2 hours it increases to 50%. It is worth remembering that these regulations do not cover urban, suburban and regional transport.

- The right to a partial refund of the ticket price as a compensation for the delay is independent of the reasons for the train's delay - adds Marta Gradowska from D.A.S. - In such a case, the Carrier cannot claim e.g. force majeure, like difficult weather conditions. On the other hand, the passenger loses the possibility to request a complaint or compensation if he was informed about the delay before purchasing the ticket - explains the expert from D.A.S.

What do we need for a complaint?

Delayed trains are usually a big nerve for passengers. However, if you give up your journey, you should not be angry to tear your ticket or throw it away. - If the conditions for a complaint are met, the ticket is a proof of purchase and we should attach it to the application. If the ticket was purchased online, in case of some carriers you can also make a complaint online - informs Marta Gradowska from D.A.S. However, it should be remembered that we can only claim compensation for delay if the price of the ticket exceeds the minimum threshold equivalent to 4 Euro. A certificate of delay, which we will obtain from an employee of a given carrier, e.g. a train manager, may also be helpful in obtaining compensation. It is worth applying for such a certificate in every case. The complaint and the request for compensation should be submitted no later than one year after the delayed journey. The carrier must respond to this request within 30 days.

- We should also remember to copy and keep all documents sent or received. They will be needed if the carrier does not respond to the complaint or rejects it and we will want to appeal against its decision in other institutions - D.A.S. expert sensitizes.

Compensation for delayed train

Additional compensation for losses

By delaying the train we can not only lose time, but also suffer material damage. When the delay has caused us to be unable to use the tickets for the summer festival, we have run away from the plane to the holiday resort, or we have to continue on another train, there is a chance to get adequate compensation from the carrier, but this depends on the circumstances of the specific case. - In such a situation, the general rules of liability for damage apply, so it is necessary to properly demonstrate the fact of suffering damage, determine its amount and the causal link between the damage and the carrier's action - explains Marta Gradowska from D.A.S. For this purpose, we must, for example, present an unrealized ticket for the event or a missed flight and confirm any additional costs associated with it, e.g. forced hotel accommodation if, after a delayed arrival, we lose the opportunity to continue our journey and can only undertake it the next day. - The carrier may recognize all or only part of our claims, or even reject them, so the evidence is very important and if you refuse to pay compensation or its inadequate amount, you must reckon with the need to take such a case to court - underlines the expert D.A.S.

It is not only time that matters, but also comfort.

The ticket entitles the passenger not only to travel according to the timetable, but also in specific conditions. We can also apply for compensation from the carrier if the train will have a different composition, there was no restaurant car on the ticket, our seat was in a lower class or there were other inconveniences, such as broken air conditioning. The carrier may reimburse us for this, e.g. the difference in costs between the seats in different classes of cars or give us a discount voucher for the next journey.

A passenger who is not satisfied with the conditions of the train journey, e.g. the cleanliness of the wagons or the level of service, may also complain to the carrier. However, this does not involve a financial claim by the passenger.

Settlement of disputes with the carrier should be easier

The Railway Ombudsman can also be contacted for help. This recently established institution is intended to help train passengers to assert their rights. Its tasks will include amicable settlement of passengers' disputes with carriers out of court. The proceedings before the Ombudsman are free of charge. However, in order to turn to this institution, several conditions must be met, including, among others, an attempt to resolve the dispute on one's own, e.g. in the form of a complaint, and to complete the necessary documents. Therefore, the Ombudsman will not assist us in contacting the carrier or in preparing a complaint or claiming compensation for train delay. - We therefore return to the starting point. It is up to you to know your rights and try to enforce them. It is worth remembering this and knowing what we should do in case of problems before and during the train journey. It is simply in our interest. It may be useful in such a situation to have legal expenses insurance. If you have such an insurance agreement, you can get legal advice or help on how to make a complaint and where to file it. If we run out of amicable ways to resolve a dispute, legal expenses insurance will finance court costs and the costs of a lawyer representing us in court - points out Gradowska from D.A.S. The expert adds that such a policy can also be useful in case of problems in travelling by other means of transport, e.g. if the plane is delayed, our luggage is lost by airlines or legal problems related to driving a car, also on foreign roads. - Apart from the tourist policy, it is worth to think about securing yourself for holidays and the rest of the year with a legal protection policy in order to travel without the stress of legal problems," concludes Marta Gradowska from D.A.S.