Hard times for multimodal passengers

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In 2016, 10.6 billion passengers travelled in the European Union. Of these, 65.7 million used several modes of transport, with the first position taken by the combination of air and rail mode (43 million, i.e. 65% of passengers travelling by multimodal transport).

In a recent study published by the European Commission, however, they point out that the existence of regulatory and legal barriers represent a major obstacle to achieving a single contract, i.e. the purchase of a single ticket for passengers who choose or have to use several modes of transport.
In fact, only 3.3 million passengers had a single ticket for their journey in 2018, 2.1 million of which had a combined air + train ticket and 1.1 million had a combined air + coach ticket.

The protection of passengers’ rights and, in general, contractual provisions still apply in most cases to individual modes of transport, while the broad spectrum of multimodal journeys remains uncovered in the absence of a single European regulatory framework. This is also reflected in the liability profiles to be applied to multimodal transport carriers, which have not been defined, and in the information obligations in transport and at node level to be rendered to passengers.

So , the passenger using the ship and coach mode, or air coach mode, has to sign more contracts and therefore has more tickets, and during the transits in the nodes does not have a specific protection or even only the information on the status of the continuation of his journey.

Overcoming these barriers is of course not easy and requires the cooperation of private operators in the sector, as well as an impetus from the European legislator.

The study concludes that if the share of multimodal tickets sold in Europe is to be increased, soft law measures need to be combined with a review of existing EU regulations to develop a specific contract for multimodal transport, with particular reference to EC Regulation 261, 2004 on air passenger rights.

To this end, setting up specific authorities to enforce the contractual provisions of the multimodal ticket to protect passengers would also support the development of this market.

The strengthening of multimodal transport by 2030, which is a primary objective in the European Union’s transport strategy, could, in the not too distant future, allow for the right to be re-routed to a different transport mode in the event that the transport modality that was originally planned has been cancelled. Likewise, passengers should have the right to lump sum compensation if the total journey delay exceeds 5 hours, or the right to reimbursement for delays while waiting for the aircraft before take-off or after landing.

Other challenges, of course, await the growth of multimodal passenger transport. Just to mention a few: the digitization of transport services, including ticketing, the lack of precise data on multimodal passenger transport volumes and, of course, better connections between the different nodes.

However, the market will not find its own solutions to these problems unless there is also strong transport system planning, including the strictly regulatory field.


Regulatory barriers are a problem in achieving a single contract. Passengers today are forced to purchase a variety of tickets to reach a destination through a combination of modes transport. Overcoming these barriers is of course not easy and requires the cooperation of private operators in the sector, as well as an impetus from the European legislator.