The acquisition, which still has to be approved by the European Commission, will be carried out by Fret SNCF through Rail Transport Holding (TFH) and will give SNCF representation on the board of CRT.

Both companies have also agreed to develop international rail freight services, and hope to capitalise on Spain's plans to extend standard-gauge track from Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast line. SNCF says it wants to extend the Viia rolling road service from Helsingborg, Sweden to Le Boulou near Perpignan south into Spain "whenever the infrastructure is ready."

Two weeks ago, Viia successfully carried out a test run with an 860m-long piggyback train over the new standard-gauge line between Perpignan and Figueres.

A subsidiary of Spanish construction company Comsa Emte, Comsa Rail Transport became Spain's first open-access freight operator when it began operating in 2007. Last year it generated revenues of €25m and operated more than 5000 services.

Despite being open to competition since 2005, the Spanish railfreight market is still dominated by Renfe, which has a 90% share. However, rail's share of the inland freight market remains low at less than 5%.