In addition to the deregulation of passenger transport, European Union authorities have voted for the progressive liberalisation of freight transport, starting with international transport between Member States.
Since 2003, independent operators have been allowed to operate on French soil. The management of freight links and rail infrastructure is the responsibility of the Réseau ferré de France (RFF – French Rail Network), which issues operating and safety licences to transport operators and provides manpower training. Railway freight transport has been deregulated since 31 March 2006, and a Commission de Régularisation des Activités Ferroviaires (CRAF – Railway Regulatory Commission) is currently being set up, which will be responsible for ensuring open access for all railway operators.
Private operators have also emerged alongside the traditional national operators in the specialised transport of chemical products, foodstuffs and dry bulk. The new operators are often subsidiaries of traditional operators including, for example, DB Schenker (Germany), Euro Cargo Rail (subsidiary of UK EWSI group), BLS Cargo (Switzerland), CFF Cargo (subsidiary of Swiss railways), VFLI (subsidiary of SNCF of France) and Europorte 2 (subsidiary of Eurotunnel). These operators are also developing their activities in the part-loads market, which provides an alternative to HGV goods transport.