The railways of Europe originated as many separate concerns, and there were many border changes after World War I and the Treaty of Versailles. Colonial railways were the responsibility of the mother country. Into this environment the UIC was created on 17 October 1922, with the aim of standardising industry practices.
Facilitate the sharing of best practices among members (benchmarking)
Support members in their efforts to develop new business and new areas of activities
Propose new ways to improve technical and environmental performance
Promote interoperability, create new world standards for railways (including common standards with other transport modes)
Develop centres of competence (High Speed, Safety, Security, e-Business, ...)
When founded in 1922 the UIC had 51 members from 29 countries, including Japan and China. They were soon[when?] joined by members from the Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa.[specify] As of 2021,[when?] the UIC has 207 members across five continents. Of these there are:
73 active members (including from Afghanistan, China, Europe, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan, and companies operating worldwide such as Transdev)
68 associate members (including from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australia)
53 affiliate members (related or ancillary businesses or services)
On 12 November 2010, the UIC opened an African regional office in Tunis, Tunisia with the support of SNCFT.
In order to provide a common understanding and reduce potential confusion, the UIC has established standard international railway terminology and a trilingual (English-French-German) thesaurus of terms. The thesaurus was the result of cooperation with the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT/CEMT) and was published in 1995.
UIC plays an important role in standardization of railway parts, data and terminology. Therefore, UIC codes (also known as UIC leaflet) are developed since the beginning of UIC's work. A new term for these UIC leaflets is used by UIC for better understanding: International Railway Solution (IRS).
UIC 592-2 Large containers for transport on wagons – Technical conditions to be fulfilled by large containers accepted for use in international traffic. Describes the classes and categories of large containers, handling characteristics, identification markings, and special conditions applying to large tank containers.
UIC 592-3 Large containers (CT), swap bodies (CM) and transport frames for horizontal transhipment (CA) – Standard report on acceptance tests.
UIC 592-4 Swap bodies for grab handling and spreader gripping – Technical conditions. Swap bodies are the removable superstructures of road transport vehicles. Their dimensions and some of their fittings are standardised, particularly dimensions, strength parameters and securing devices, of the road vehicle, the wagon and transhipment arrangements (grab-handling grooves, lower securing parts and, in special cases, upper securing parts).
UIC 596-5 Transport of road vehicles on wagons – Technical organisation – Conveyance of semi-trailers with P coding or N coding on recess wagons. This leaflet sets out regulations and provisions for semi-trailers with normal road transport characteristics for conveyance on fixed-recess carrier wagons. The provisions are valid for semi-trailers, gantry equipment/industrial trucks with grab handles, recess wagon types 1a and 1b in accordance with UIC Leaflet 571–4.
UIC 596-6 Conveyance of road vehicles on wagons – Technical organisation – Conditions for coding combined-transport load units and combined-transport lines. The leaflet sets out the coding and organisation of loading units in respect of road vehicles on wagons, designed to ensure compatibility of loading units (LU) with the permissible profile for combined transport lines. The provisions aim to facilitate LU identification to speed-up international traffic movements. They are applicable to semi-trailers, swap bodies, roller units loaded on wagons and bogies in combined transport operations.
FU-7100Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) User Requirements Specification. Defines a set of technology independent user requirements in the form of individual applications. Each application has been defined to provide or support an identified communications need that is considered necessary for current and future railway operation.