A clear set of rules

Who is responsible for what? In the daily collaboration between wagon keepers and railway undertakings, this question is answered by the GCU

The General Contract of Use for Wagons (GCU) regulates the rights and obligations between wagon keepers and railway undertakings (RU) for the use of freight wagons. It plays the role of “general terms of business” for both sides. Since it was launched in July 2006, more than 700 signatories in 20 lands have signed up to the GCU. Roughly 600,000 wagons are currently registered in the wagon database of the GCU. Anyone working in the railway traffic industry is familiar with this contractual framework with a somewhat ungainly name.

A living contract

In the last 15 years, the GCU has continued to develop, and VPI has played a major role here. Various international working groups are working continuously to integrate new requirements into the contractual framework. We are committed to lending our expertise to this endeavour. The international convention COTIF 1999 and its appendix CUV form the basis for this multilateral contract.

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Applying the GCU correctly

Members regularly contact VPI and its partner associations with questions or controversial interpretations of the contract. The GCU is not an easy read. To support the sector in working with the contract provisions, VPI has worked with UIP and other stakeholders on a training programme entitled “UIP GCU Schooling Programme”, which is now highly in demand. The programme teaches practical skills, such as the performance of a brake test, as well as theoretical knowledge concerning legal questions. The goal of the training measures is to reduce uncertainty in the daily practical application of the GCU.


You can find extensive additional information on the COTIF website.


Karl-Heinz Fehr

VPI legal advisor

T +49 40 226 59 21 - 31