There was an urgent demand since the late 1940s for the creation of uniform legal and economic standards for the carriage of passengers and goods on international railways. Painstaking work was done preceding the foundation of OSJD. The first fundamental documents had been developed and agreed by 1951, which entered into force on 1 November 1951.
A few years later those agree¬ments underwent drastic changes and were named as SMPS (Agreement on International Passenger Transport by Rail) and SMGS (Agreement on International Goods Transport by Rail), and the number of the parties to those agreements also increased, co-operation between railways continued to develop, and the volumes of passenger and freight traffic increased considerably.
Some of the main objectives of OSJD are: development and improvement of international railway transportation; improvement of international transport law and administration of SMPS and SMGS; co-operation on solution of problems of economic, information, scientific, technological and ecological aspects of railway transport; measures to increase of railway transport competitiveness; development of international railway traffic; etc. In the European countries the railway traffic between the OSJD member states has 8–10,000 km passing through different climatic zones (including regions with severe extreme climate conditions) and with track gauge changeovers of 1,435 mm and 1,520 mm. At the time of OSJD's foundation the operational length of railway lines of the member states was about 227,000 km, and at present is 281,215.8 km, through which about 4 billion passengers and 6 billion tons of goods are carried annually.
The large number of countries participating in transportation between Europe and Asia have different national legislations. The legal norms and documents developed and adopted by OSJD provide uniformity. OSJD carries out activities aimed at the development of international railway traffic, including container and combined transportation between Europe and Asia, as well as at the increase of railways' competitive ability and efficiency. It collaborates actively with many international organizations in the field of railway transport, such as UNECE, UNESCAP, DG MOVE of the European Commission, OTIF, CIT, EAEC, UIC, ERA, CCTT, UITP, FIATA, FTE and others.
ARA’s request for membership of OSJD was approved on 6 June 2014. OSJD now has 28 members, including Afghanistan.