Phil Bennion MEP: EU railway package will cut costs for passengers

Groupe ALDEThe European Parliament today adopted a variety of measures aimed at reducing costs to railway companies and train manufacturers that should in turn reduce the cost of passenger fares.

In 2012 alone, 9.9 million passengers travelled by Eurostar to and from mainland Europe. This package will make it easier for other operators to bid to run services on the line by harmonising technical and safety standards and reducing administrative barriers.

Currently train manufacturers have to apply for certificates to sell rolling stock in each EU member state, while train companies have to deal with around 11,000 different safety rules to run trains across the EU. The introduction of new EU- wide rules will reduce costs, increase competition and make it easier for trains to travel across borders, leading to a reduction in passenger fares.

However, protectionist MEPs blocked ambitious proposals to open up the domestic rail markets of other EU countries to greater competition, a move that would have benefitted UK firms.

Liberal Democrat European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion commented:

“These new rules will bring down the costs of operating railways, that can only be good news for passengers as it will lead to cheaper fares.

“However, I am disappointed that MEPs did not support increasing competition in domestic markets which could have reduced operating costs by almost a third.

“Opening up the single market in rail would lead to better and more affordable train travel across Europe.”

MEPs vote to end “one-bag rule” and boost air passenger rights

Groupe ALDEMEPs have voted to strengthen air passenger rights in Europe including clearer rules on compensation and carry-on luggage and the right to free food and accommodation in the case of severe delays.

For short-haul flights, passengers will be entitled to £250 (300 euro) compensation after three hours delay, and will be given the right to disembark after a maximum of three hours waiting on the runway.

The new rules were welcomed by Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion, who also pushed for seats required for carers accompanying disabled people or for musical instruments to be exempt from tax.

Commenting, he said:

“The most important change is that the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ has been tightened, meaning airlines will only be able to avoid paying compensation under specifically defined situations outside of their control.”

“The confusion over hand baggage allowances that currently plagues our airports will also thankfully be brought to an end. Each passenger will be allowed one handbag, one coat, one bag of duty-free goods and one item of carry-on luggage.”

Phil Bennion MEP: New lorry safety rules will save fuel and save lives

Groupe ALDEEvery year hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians die on Britain’s roads as a result of accidents involving lorries, but many of these deaths could be prevented by improving lorry designs and reducing dangerous blind-spots.

Today MEPs met with safety campaigners in Brussels who are calling for tighter EU rules to improve lorry safety, including Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Chris Boardman, Kate Cairns from the See Me Save Me Campaign and London’s Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gillighan. Lorry manufacturers Laing O’Rourke and Cemex were also in Brussels to show off new designs that incorporate a number of safety features, including wing mirrors and camera systems specially designed to improve a driver’s field of vision.

Next month the European Parliament will vote on an EU proposal concerning the weights and dimensions of lorries which includes requirements for new, lifesaving designs of lorry cabs.

Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion has tabled amendments that will require improved drivers’ sightlines and safer cab fronts to reduce the damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians.

Commenting, he said:

“Improving the design of lorries will save fuel, but more importantly it will save lives. Redesigned lorry cabs with a curvy nose, a crash box and better vision for drivers could drastically improve lorry safety and prevent hundreds of fatal accidents every year.”

“The lorries on our roads come from all over Europe so it is particularly important that we act at the European level on this issue. That is why I am pressing for EU-wide changes that will make lorries both safer and greener. “

Chris Boardman commented:

“The measures that we are urging the EU to take today will demonstrably improve the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists, making these environmentally friendly forms of transport more appealing. By adopting these recommendations the EU could play an important role in changing our transport habits to benefit us all. It would be criminal for us to know how to save lives and then choose not to take action.”

Kate Cairns said:

‘It is exactly five years since we lost my sister, Eilidh Cairns, after she was run down from behind by a tipper lorry. The driver didn’t see her. The See Me Save Me campaign calls for mandatory elimination of lorry blind spots”.

“It’s a painfully slow process with much tragedy in the meantime but I am encouraged by this momentum and welcome this opportunity to join forces and continue the fight to reduce such violent death and injury on our roads.’

Bennion: EU Boost for British Holidaymakers

Lib Dem MEP and European Transport Spokesperson Phil Bennion has welcomed proposals from the European Commission to modernise the EU’s rules on package holidays and bring them into line with the modern era. The new rules include stricter controls on price surcharges, reduced red tape for travel agents and improved cancellation rights for customers who book package holidays online.

“Almost half of Brits went on a package holiday in 2012, and in this tough econonimc climate people are increasingly looking to save money by booking customised package deals online. These new rules will strengthen the rights of customers to claim compensation, cancel their bookings and access all relevant information, even when buying online packages with several different companies across Europe. Continue reading