EUROPEAN railways are starting to face up to the detailed fall-out from the ongoing programme to liberalise rail operations. As new open-access operators enter the market, there are suggestions that some may be ’poaching’ experienced staff from their rivals.With seven competing freight operators now active in France (p361), SNCF announced last month that it would seek reimbursement of some or all training costs from staff who leave within five years of undertaking training worth k1 500 or more. New recruits are being asked to sign clauses precluding them from joining a competitor for a year after they leave the railway.In Belgium, staff training is apparently being used as a weapon to fend off competition. On May 10, the UK-based Rail Freight Group reported a serious - and probably illegal - move by the Belgian government. A new decree requires all independent operators to use drivers that have been trained on SNCB programmes and simulators. RFG says this anti-compeitive measure would be equivalent to ’the UK government requiring by law that all airline pilots operating in or over the UK should be trained by British Airways’.RFG has complained to the European Commission, and DG-TREN Director General Matthias Ruete has given the Belgian government until May 31 ’to justify their new legal framework to EU officials’.n