Rail transport law

International transport by rail is governed by several intergovernmental conventions and within the European Union by several EU Regulations and Directives.

This page contains:

  • details of the rail transport law which is applicable in Europe and Asia,
  • an overview of the scope of the various agreements.

This page also provides a summary of the various actors who are active in the field.


OTIF is an intergovernmental organisation based in Bern. COTIF, which gives rise to OTIF, defines the aim of OTIF as to promote, improve and facilitate international traffic by rail.



The OSJD is an inter-ministerial organisation based in Warsaw. One of its main tasks is to manage the SMPS and SMGS conventions.



The European Union has taken a very active role in rail transport since 1990. A summary of European Union legislation may be found on:



The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), based in Geneva, is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. Its major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. It sets out norms, standards and conventions to facilitate international cooperation, particularly for transport.



The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) is an independent intergovernmental organisation based in Rome. Its purpose is to study needs and methods for modernising, harmonising and co-ordinating private and in particular commercial law as between states and groups of states and to formulate uniform law instruments, principles and rules to achieve those objectives.