On 6th of October 2021, the EUD attended a participatory workshop called ‘Study for the European Commission on the social dimension of the future EU transport system regarding users and passengers’. It was co-hosted by the European Commission (DG MOVE – Unit for Social Aspects, Passenger Rights and Equal Opportunities) and Steer Group, and aimed to map the challenges and opportunities posed by the digitalisation of the transport system in terms of affordability, reliability, and accessibility. In addition to this, the workshop sought to review and propose possible solutions that put users at the centre of the future transport system so that its benefits can reach all societal groups.
The opening remarks were made by Elisabeth Kotthaus, Head of the Mobility and Transport Unit at the European Commission, who spoke about the sustainable and smart mobility strategy which the Commission adopted in December 2020. Within the strategy, Ms Kotthaus highlighted Flagship 9, which focuses on making mobility fair and just for all. The pandemic’s economic shock demonstrated the need for affordable, accessible and fair mobility for rail passengers. Ms Kotthaus concluded by reminding participants of the Commission’s commitment to mainstreaming equality throughout its transport-related policies to ensure no one is left behind.
The workshop’s first session was about draft recommendations on establishing an inclusive approach to addressing the regional and national needs of all passengers, including persons with disabilities. These recommendations are based on three pillars: governance, engagement, and data. Steer Group, the consultancy company chosen by the European Commission, presented the recommendations. During the group discussion, the EUD’s policy assistant Ms Toju Popo said that there needs to be connections between policy at the EU level and national level on the provision of travel information in national sign languages, and that this provision should be a permanent fixture, not just a temporary measure for an emergency situation. The pandemic has highlighted the communication barriers that deaf rail passengers face.
In this participatory workshop, it was helpful to learn how the Commission seeks to make mobility fair for all passengers, including those with disabilities. Many of the participants came from the private sector and civil society, and the Commission gained a better understanding of why there needs to be far better accessibility in rail travel. The recommendations for users and passengers, due to be presented later this year, could lead to some lasting changes.