The European Investment Bank (EIB) is reaffirming its commitment to France's high-speed rail transport mode by granting Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) a loan for EUR 300 million towards the first construction phase of the new high-speed rail line between Paris, eastern France and central Europe (Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland). The finance contract was signed by RFF President Claude Martinand and EIB Vice-President Francis Mayer.

The first phase of works, which this EIB loan will help to finance, covers construction of the new 300-kilometre stretch of line running from Vaires-sur-Marnes (Ile-de-France) to Baudrecourt (Lorraine). This section will serve Metz and Nancy as well as linking the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg into the French TGV network.

The new high-speed line will slash journey time between Paris and Strasbourg to 2h20 (from 4 hours now) and between Paris and Frankfurt to 3h45. It is one of the European Union's 14 priority TENs (Trans-European Networks). As such, it has been considered a particularly worthwhile project by the EIB which, together with RFF, is in contact with the French local authorities within whose catchment area the line falls.

As part of its contribution to developing major transport infrastructure, the EIB has participated in the financing of most of the high-speed lines in France, with loans of EUR 340 million for the TGV Atlantique, EUR 884 million for the TGV Nord and EUR 618 million for the TGV Méditerranée. It has also lent for high-speed networks in Belgium (EUR 1.4 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 487 million), Spain (EUR 778 million) and Italy (EUR 2.1 billion) - or over EUR 6.7 billion in all for high-speed trains facilitating communications within the European Union.

The EIB purposively scaled up its TENs lending several notches after the Essen Council held in 1994. That meeting identified the priority trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks and called for their extension to Europe's border regions, particularly the countries of Central Europe seeking to join the Union. With over EUR 30 billion committed for such projects (including EUR 11 billion for rail links), the EIB has become the leading source of bank finance for major networks of this kind in Europe, commanding as it does the financial clout to raise huge sums on terms tailored to the scale of the projects concerned.