Since 1902, CIT helps railway undertakings implement international transport law, standardising contractual relationships and creating legal certainty to save members money and support their business.
Shortly after the Convention concerning the International Carriage of Goods by Rail came into force at the beginning of 1893, the railway companies of the majority of the Member States thought it necessary to co-operate more closely to facilitate the practical implementation of the convention. The International Rail Transport Committee was founded in 1902.
The overriding objective of the association was to help railways apply the convention concerning the carriage of goods consistently and then subsequently likewise for the parallel convention on the carriage of passengers and luggage (which entered into force in 1928).
To achieve this, the CIT drew up standard instructions to augment and explain the legal texts, set up various agreements to define the legal relationships between the railways and produced practical instructions for the use of staff in the field.
The CIT also contributed significantly to the work of revising the conventions as that from time to time became necessary.
The management of the CIT, undertaken by the Austrian State Railways until 1914, was taken over by the Swiss Federal Railways in 1921.
The two world wars and the other political events which shook Europe during the twentieth century seriously disrupted the application of international rail transport law. Nevertheless each time, once circumstances permitted, the CIT worked together with other international organisations to re-establish legal certainty.
Over the last few decades, political, economic, technical and legal evolution has required the activities of the organisation to become even more diversified. These developments culminated at the end of the last century with the most significant reform ever made to international railway law - to make COTIF compatible with Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the European Union's railways.
The CIT was set up as a legal entity in its own right in 2004; it is now an association under Swiss law and is based in Bern.