The legislation is designed to transform the French rail network from a closed and administered system to one which is open and regulated.

Araf's main role will be to ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to the rail network to allow fair competition to develop. Operators that feel discriminated against can appeal to Araf which will have the power to investigate and pass sanctions.

Araf will have seven members appointed for six years. They will have expertise in rail transport, economics, the law, and competition, but cannot work or have an interest in the railway industry. Panel members have a duty of impartiality.

Araf will also regulate charges for using the rail network to ensure that charges levied by French Rail Network (RFF) are consistent, and Araf will have the right to access the accounts of RFF and train operators.

"The creation of an independent regulator is a real event that will change the railway landscape," says RFF. "Araf has broad powers and should change the game for major players."