Railway regulation means supervising access to the railway network. This means verifying if the railway infrastructure manager (Infrabel) is treating the users of the railway network (the railway undertakings) in a non-discriminating way.
The actual way of regulation is a consequence of the evolution of the railway system from a structure based on national monopolies (the old NMBS) to an integrated system where the network is being opened to different railway undertakings that are competing among each other (competition on the market).
Since 1 January 2007 the market for freight transport has been completely liberalized. Since 1 January 2010 the market for international passenger transport has been thrown open to competition.
On European level no decision has yet been made about the possible opening of the market of national passenger railway transport. However, some member states have already opened this market for competition. For instance, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany have organised this market mainly by means of a system of so-called ‘franchise’, which means a certain form of competition (competition for the market). In Belgium, the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS/SNCB) is still holding a monopoly for the national passenger transport.