The European Investment Bank (EIB) is reaffirming its commitment to the TGV-Est Europe high-speed rail project by granting EUR 71 million and EUR 24 million loans respectively to the Departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin. The finance contracts were signed today in Strasbourg and Colmar by Mr Francis Mayer, EIB Vice-President, and by Mr Philippe Richert and Mr Constant Goerg, Chairmen of the General Councils of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.

This financing follows on from an initial EUR 300 million loan to Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) in April 2001 for the first phase of construction of the new TGV-Est Europe high-speed line and three loans totalling EUR 210 million advanced in late 2001 to the Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine Regions.

The two contracts signed today bring EIB funding for TGV Est Europe to EUR 605 million. They come under the umbrella of a partnership with French local authorities aimed at enabling these to co-finance the project in accordance with the terms of the agreement signed in October 2000 between the French Government, RFF, SNCF and the local authorities concerned. At a later stage, the loans may be supplemented by further EIB finance up to the total amount of commitments for this project, which was recently increased by the Bank's Board of Directors to EUR 830 million, equivalent to a little over a quarter of the cost of the works.

TGV-Est Europe is one of the priority Trans-European Transport Networks identified by the Essen European Council (December 1994). The first phase of works, which these EIB loans will help to finance, covers construction of the new 300-km line from Vaires-sur-Marnes (Ile-de-France) to Baudrecourt (Lorraine), serving 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. At the signing ceremony, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth stressed the pan-European dimension of TGV Est Europe, which will connect Paris and the whole of eastern France not only to Germany but also to Central Europe.

The EIB vastly scaled up its TENs lending after the Essen European Council in December 1994. That meeting pinpointed the priority trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks and called for their extension to Europe's neighbouring regions, particularly in the Accession Countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1993, the EIB has financed TENs to the tune of EUR 59.2 billion, pumping EUR 37 billion into trans-European transport links (including EUR 11.5 billion for rail). As the leading source of bank finance for major networks of this kind in Europe, the EIB commands the financial clout to raise huge sums on terms tailored to the scale of the projects concerned.

Under this heading, the EIB has so far contributed EUR 8.1 billion towards financing most of Europe's high-speed rail lines. This is especially the case in France, where loans of EUR 341 million for TGV Atlantique, EUR 884 million for TGV Nord Europe, EUR 618 million for TGV Méditerranée and already EUR 605 million for TGV Est Europe have been advanced. The EIB has also helped to finance high-speed networks in Belgium (EUR 1.5 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 409 million), Spain (EUR 778 million) and Italy (EUR 2.6 billion).