Photo credit (banner): Maxime Huriez / SNCF

Opening up to competition

In the 2000s, markets for rail freight and international passenger rail opened up to competition, and now regional and long-distance passenger rail (high-speed service and Intercités) are gradually following suit. And because our rail expertise is unmatched anywhere in Europe, that’s a major opportunity for SNCF.

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Countdown to competition—key dates

15 March 2003

Trans-European rail freight opens up to every company in the European Union.

13 June 2005

The first private freight train runs on the French network.

31 March 2006

Domestic rail freight markets open completely to competition throughout the European Union.

8 December 2009

A new law defines and regulates the structure of rail transport, and the French State creates Araf (Autorité de régulation des activités ferroviaires)1, a new regulator tasked with independently monitoring the rail industry to ensure free competition.

13 December 2009

International passenger transport opens up to competition.

December 2019

The French State and regional authorities may call for new tenders as existing public transport contracts with TER and Intercités expire.

December 2020

Open access begins for high-speed transport providers and for conventional transport providers not subject to regional public transport contracts.

December 2023

The French State and regional governments must call for tenders as existing public transport contracts with TER and Intercités expire.


Special conditions apply to Transilien, the mass transit provider for the Paris region: between 2023 and 2039, service will open up to competition on a line-by-line basis.

What’s new for you

Now that passenger rail transport is open to competition, new rail companies can offer trains on lines previously reserved for national operators. This already applies in other countries: for example, trains operated by our Keolis subsidiary now stop in German and English railway stations. 

SNCF in Europe

SNCF’s rail experience is unmatched anywhere in Europe. We operate in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany with Eurostar and Thalys, in Switzerland with Lyria, in Germany with Alleo and in Spain with Elipsos. And we’ve only just begun.

1 In 2015, Araf’s authority expanded to include interurban coaches and motorways operated under concession contracts, and it became a multimodal transport regulator under the name Arafer (Autorité de régulation des activités ferroviaires et routières, or Regulatory Authority for Railway and Road Activities). In October 2019, Arafer’s regulatory power expanded to include airport fees, and it was renamed as the Transport Regulatory Authority (Autorité de régulation des transports, or ART).