The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term financing institution is supporting the construction of the new fast rail-link between Heathrow Airport and London with a £125 million (ECU 186 million) loan to BAA plc. The new dedicated railway link will connect Heathrow, the World's leading international airport, with Paddington Station in Central London with a journey time of 15 minutes.

EIB President Sir Brian Unwin said: "The EIB is pleased to support this key project which will improve access and travel conditions for passengers at Europe's busiest international airport. The Heathrow Express will add yet another crucial link to the trans-European communications networks - whose development is a European Union priority - and it will also improve the London urban environment by helping to reduce road congestion."

The airport handles some 56 million passengers annually, and it is estimated that 80% of travellers to and from Heathrow use road transport. Works include the upgrading and electrification of 18 km existing Railtrack line, the construction of a new 7 km spur line, mainly underground, to the airport and two new stations, as well as a maintenance deport, new signalling and communications works and the purchase of high-speed train units. The new rail service will be operated by Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd, owned by BAA.

The EIB was set up in 1958 to finance for capital investment furthering EU policy objectives, in particular: regional development; trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; and energy security. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (a AAA bond issuer). The President of the EIB, Sir Brian Unwin, assumed office in 1993 and is the first British President of the institution.BAA is the World's largest airport company. Its principal activities are centred around the operation of seven UK airports also including Gatwick and Stansted in the London area. Heathrow Express will run from June 1998 with four high speed trains per hour, every 15 minutes from Paddington to Heathrow, arriving in just 15 minutes. Heathrow Express launches the initial phase of its service in Autumn 1997 with FastTrain offering a rail/bus service with travelling time of 30 minutes from Paddington to Heathrow airport. The Express is a £440 million BAA initiative to have 50% of airport passengers using public transport.

The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP.