In future, rail travelers in Europe will not be entitled to compensation if their trains are delayed due to force majeure, such as a storm.
The EU Parliament and the member states agreed in Brussels on a corresponding reform of passenger rights.
According to the Council of Member States, the compromise contains a clause on force majeure, which exempts railway companies from their obligation to pay compensation "in special circumstances".
Such a clause for "extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters and major crises in the area of public health" was a demand of the transport ministers.
Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) in particular spoke out in favor of harmonizing the requirements for compensation for rail and air travel.
Parliament was originally against the proposal, but was unable to prevail in the negotiations.
The reason for the change was that equal opportunities with other transport providers must be guaranteed.
In other areas, too, the agreement fell short of the demands of the MEPs.
For example, they had demanded a significant increase in the compensation to be paid in the event of delay.
The agreement now provides for a reimbursement of 25 percent of the ticket price for a delay of one hour or more and 50 percent of two hours or more.
This corresponds to the previous regulation of the Deutsche Bahn.
Even with the so-called transit cards, not much will change for German consumers.
In future, railway companies will be obliged under EU law to issue a single ticket when switching from local to long-distance transport, which is customary in Germany anyway.
The member states, on the other hand, refused to oblige various railway companies to offer joint tickets.
Consumer advocates criticize reform
The Green MEP Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg was disappointed.
"Parliament was only able to assert itself selectively with its progressive demands," she said.
The force majeure clause, however, is a "clear step backwards" in consumer protection.
"In my opinion, we have missed the opportunity to make rail travel really more attractive," said CSU MP Markus Ferber.
The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) expressed itself more clearly.
The reform is a "very significant" weakening of passenger rights at a crucial point.
"The railway companies can simply reject claims for compensation for train cancellations and delays with reference to the new force majeure clause," said vzbv boss Klaus Müller.
"Whether customers get money depends on the discretion of the company. The previous legal security for consumers would then be invalid."
The consumer advocates also fear legal disputes due to the imprecise clause.