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Bus, Ferry and Rail Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

Protection for Bus and Coach Passengers – Regulation 181/2011/EU

If I travel by bus, do I have similar rights to airline passengers?

Yes. Bus and coach travellers throughout the EU have rights similar to airline passengers. However, application of Regulation 181/2011/EU is limited in Ireland since many of the rights provided under the Regulation take effect only if the journey is in excess of 250km.

Regulation (EU) No 181/2011 sets out travellers' basic rights and imposes a number of obligations on bus and coach companies and terminal managers concerning their responsibility towards passengers. These rights include:

  • non-discrimination based on nationality regarding tariffs and other contract conditions;
  • non-discriminatory treatment for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. Specifically, free of charge assistance both at designated bus terminals and on-board buses and coaches, as well as financial compensation for loss of or damage to mobility equipment;
  • adequate and accessible information for all passengers before and during their journey, as well as general information in bus terminals and on the internet about their rights;
  • reimbursement of the full ticket price or rerouting in case of overbooking, cancellation or delay of more than 2 hours from the estimated time of departure (only applicable for journeys of more than 250 km distance);
  • compensation of 50% of the ticket price in addition to reimbursement of the full price in case of overbooking, cancellation or a delay of more than 2 hours from the estimated time of departure, when the bus and coach company fails to offer the passenger the right to choose between reimbursement and rerouting (only applicable for journeys of more than 250 km distance);
  • adequate assistance (snacks, meals, refreshments, as well as, if necessary, accommodation) in case of cancellation or delay of more than 90 minutes for journeys longer than 3 hours (only applicable for journeys of more than 250 km distance);
  • compensation for death, injury, loss or damage to luggage caused by road accidents;
  • a complaint handling mechanism established by the bus and coach companies and available to all passengers;
  • establishment of independent bodies in each EU Member State with the mandate to enforce the Regulation and, where appropriate, to impose penalties.

See here for further information on your rights as a bus passenger in the EU.

Protection for Ferry Passengers – Regulation 1177/2010/EU

If I travel by ferry, do I have similar rights to airline passengers?

In late 2012, Regulation 1177/2010 came into effect to protect passengers when travelling by sea and inland water-ways. Passengers travelling by sea and inland waterways in the EU, and in particular disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, benefit from similar rights to those passengers travelling by air or by train. These new rights include:

  • adequate and accessible information for all passengers before and during their journey, as well as general information about their rights in terminals and on-board ships;
  • adequate assistance such as snacks, meals, refreshments and, where necessary, accommodation up to three nights, with a financial coverage up to €80 per night in case of cancellation or delay at departure of more than 90 minutes;
  • guaranteed choice between reimbursement or re-routing in case of cancellation or delay at departure of more than 90 minutes;
  • compensation, between 25% and 50% of the ticket price, in situations of delay at arrival;
  • non-discriminatory treatment and specific, free-of-charge, assistance for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, both at port terminals and on-board ships, as well as financial compensation for loss of or damage to their mobility equipment;
  • mechanisms to handle passenger complaints to be put in place by carriers and terminal operators;
  • appointment of independent national bodies in charge of enforcing the regulation, where appropriate, through the application of penalties.

In addition, passengers involved in an accident when travelling by sea will have the following rights under EU law:

  • financial compensation in case of death, personal injury, and loss of or damage to luggage, vehicles, and mobility or other special equipment;
  • advance payment (within 15 days) to cover immediate economic needs in case of death or personal injury;
  • direct recourse against the carrier's insurance provider in case of death or personal injury;
  • right to receive appropriate and comprehensible information regarding the above rights prior to or, at the latest, upon departure.

In September 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave a ruling in Irish Ferries Limited v National Transport AuthorityCase C-570/19, clarifying the application and interpretation of Regulation (EU) No.1177/2010 on the Rights of Passengers When Travelling by Sea and Inland Waterways.  This was the first case to be referred to the CJEU on the Regulation.

The matter had been referred to the CJEU by the Irish High Court as a request for a preliminary ruling on the rights of passengers intending to travel by sea and inland waterway where their journey is cancelled.

The claim arose out of a delay of 200 days in the delivery of Irish Ferries’ new vessel, the WB Yeats, which was due to be delivered by a German shipyard for the 2018 summer season. In the event, the vessel was not ready in time, and at least two months prior to departure, more than 20,000 passengers who had purchased tickets for the Irish Ferries’ Dublin-Cherboug route were informed that they would have to be re-routed or their trips would have to be cancelled.

The Irish National Transport Authority (NTA) became involved and required Irish Ferries to compensate the passengers for the cancellation and re-routing, and for any costs they incurred in re-routing.

Irish Ferries contended before the Irish High Court that this decision was irrational and disproportionate.

The High Court referred ten questions relating to the interpretation of Regulation (EU) No.1177/2010 to the CJEU.

Irish Ferries’ first argument was that the Regulation did not apply at all in circumstances where passengers had been informed of the cancellation at least seven weeks in advance of their booking. This was founded partly on the language of the Regulation itself, which refers to ‘interrupted travel’, and partly on the fact that air passengers do not receive compensation when their flights are cancelled more than two weeks in advance of their booking (cf Article 5(1)(c) of the Air Passenger Regulation 261/2004/EC).

The CJEU ruled that the Regulation applies where a ferry company is forced to cancel bookings well in advance of planned departure due to late delivery of a vessel. All that is required is for a passenger to have made a reservation or purchased a ticket.

The CJEU also ruled that re-routing by means of an alternative sailing or sailings taking a different route from that of the initial sailing or via a (road or rail) land bridge may constitute ‘re-routing to the final destination’ under ‘comparable conditions’ within the meaning of Article 18 of the Regulation if other conditions of that sailing are comparable to those laid down for the initial sailing in the transport contract. However, under Article 18(1)(a), the passenger must be reimbursed for the additional cost of this re-routing. Furthermore, pursuant to Article 19, the passenger must also be offered compensation for the lengthy delay or cancellation of the original booking (unless he or she has opted to be reimbursed in full rather than re-routed). In addition, when considering the ‘ticket price’ for the purposes of Articles 18 and 19, any additional optional services selected by the passenger, such as access to lounges or kennels, must be taken into consideration.

As for Irish Ferries’ defence to the claim for compensation on the grounds that the delay in delivery of the vessel amounted to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, the CJEU relied on the caselaw determined under the Protection of Airline Passengers’ Regulation in limiting the application of that defence very substantially. It noted that the management and operation of a fleet of vessels is inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of a maritime carrier, and that the ordering of a new vessel is within its control.  Therefore, the failure of the shipyard to deliver the vessel on time did not amount to an extraordinary circumstance so as to provide a defence to a claim for compensation. It was relevant in this regard that the contract between the carrier and the shipyard provided for the latter to compensate the former in respect of late delivery.

Pursuant to Article 24 of the Regulation a passenger must submit any complaint to a carrier within two months of the date of anticipated performance. Irish Ferries tried to claim that a passenger could only obtain compensation for delay or cancellation if he or she had asked to be compensated within two months of anticipated performance of the obligation in question. The Court did not agree that a request for compensation could be equated with a complaint.

Irish Ferries had also attempted to limit the involvement of the Irish NTA in respect of any passengers travelling from France to Ireland. However, the CJEU concluded that Article 25(1) must be interpreted as meaning that the jurisdiction of a national body responsible for enforcing the Regulation covers transport services from ports situated in the territory of that Member State and, where the transport is for a return journey that has been cancelled in its entirety, return transport services from another Member State to ports situated on the territory of that first Member State. The Irish NTA therefore had jurisdiction over passengers on both legs of the ferry’s proposed journeys.

The CJEU did not consider the requirement for maritime carriers to compensate passengers to be disproportionate given the intention of the legislature to provide consumers with a high level of protection and the fact that the level of compensation is pegged to the price paid by the consumer; nor was it invalid by way of legal uncertainty.

See here for more information.

Protection for Rail Passengers – Regulation 1371/2007/EC

If I travel by rail, do I have similar rights to airline passengers?

Irish domestic rail travel is largely exempt from EC Regulation 1371/2007 which provides protection for rail passengers. However, passengers on domestic rail services in Ireland benefit from the following measures in the Regulation requiring rail operators to:

  • make it easy for rail passengers to buy tickets either at ticket offices or selling machines, by telephone, the internet or any other widely available information technology; or on-board trains. (Article 9)
  • compensate passengers where the operator is liable for the loss of luggage (Article 11)
  • have adequate insurance (Article 12)
  • ensure non-discriminatory access for persons with disabilities or reduced mobility relating to rail transport including stations, ticket reservations and ticket purchases, and at no additional cost to the passenger (Article 19)
  • provide information on the accessibility of rail services to persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility (Article 20(1))
  • ensure passengers’ personal security in railway stations and on trains (Article 26)
  • compensate passengers in the event of death or injury (Article 13).

In addition to the rights afforded to passengers on domestic services under the Regulation, passengers on international rail services also benefit from measures requiring:

  • railway operators and ticket agents to provide passengers with travel information (Article 8)
  • railway operators to make advance payments to cover immediate costs of death or injury associated with use of the rail service (Article 13)
  • compensation in the event of delays, cancellations or missed connections (Article 17)
  • minimum compensation amounts of 25% of the ticket price for delays between one to two hours, and up to 50% of the ticket price for delays of two hours and more provided the compensation to be paid is greater than €4
  • assistance for passengers (including refreshments, accommodation and alternative travel arrangements where necessary) in the event of delays exceeding 60 minutes (Article 18)
  • railway operators to provide assistance, free of charge, to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility at railway stations and on-board trains (Articles 22 & 23) subject to certain conditions (e.g. requirement to give advance notice to railway operators) (Article 24)
  • railway operators to set up a complaint handling mechanism for the rights and obligations covered by Regulation 1371/2007 (Article 27)
  • railway operators to define service quality standards and to implement and monitor an associated quality management system (Article 28).

See here for further information.