"This means that rail passengers are entitled to financial compensation for a delay of more than 60 minutes even if the delay is due to a case of force majeure, for example in case of severe weather conditions causing line closure," says the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER). "This new scenario clearly violates the principle of a level playing field between transport modes."

The ECJ says Regulation 1371/2007 on Rail Passenger Rights does not contain a clause of exoneration for delays, unlike the aviation, bus, and maritime modes. As a result CER and the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT) are calling for a more harmonised and consistent approach to compensation for delays across all modes.

"We will definitely analyse the ECJ ruling in detail," says CER executive director Mr Libor Lochman. "In any case we can already state that the ECJ judgment provides a strong argument for what CER has been saying for a long time: there is an urgent need to ensure a regulatory level playing field among transport modes, including in the area of passenger rights."