Following an initial loan of EUR 300 million advanced to Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) in April 2001 for the first phase of construction of the new TGV-Est Europe high-speed rail line, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is reaffirming its commitment to this major project by granting three loans totalling EUR 210 million to three French regions.

These new loans break down as follows: EUR 40 million to the Champagne-Ardenne Region, EUR 70 million to the Alsace Region and EUR 100 million to the Lorraine Region. The finance contracts were signed on 15 and 19 November and 7 December 2001 respectively by Mr Francis Mayer, EIB Vice-President, and by Mr Jean-Claude Etienne, Chairman of the Champagne-Ardenne Region, Mr Adrien Zeller, Chairman of the Alsace Region, and Mr Gérard Longuet, Chairman of the Lorraine Region.

The purpose of the EIB loans to the Regions is to support the financing of their respective investments in the TGV-Est Europe project, as set out in the agreement signed in October 2000 between the French Government, RFF, SNCF and the local authorities concerned. The loans could be supplemented, at a later stage, by further EIB finance up to the total amount of commitments decided by the Bank's Board of Directors for this project, i.e. EUR 680 million.

The TGV-Est Europe is one of the priority Trans-European Transport Networks identified by the Essen European Council (December 1994). The first phase of work, which these EIB loans will help to finance, covers construction of the new 300-km 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 to the French high-speed rail network. This new high-speed line will slash journey times between Paris and Metz to 1h30, between Paris and Strasbourg to 2h20 and between Paris and Frankfurt to 3h45.

The EIB vastly scaled up its TENs lending after the Essen European Council in December 1994. That meeting identified the priority trans-European transport and energy 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 TENs 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.

Under this heading, the EIB has contributed EUR 7.2 billion towards financing most of the high-speed rail lines in Europe. This is especially the case in France, where loans of EUR 340 million for the TGV Atlantique, EUR 884 million for the TGV Nord Europe, EUR 618 million for the TGV Méditerranée and, to date, EUR 510 million for the TGV Est Europe have been advanced. The EIB has also helped to finance 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).