The European Investment Bank (EIB) announces a EUR 200 million loan to French national railway company SNCF for purchasing 22 Duplex (double-deck) trainsets intended to cater for the rapid increase in traffic on the high-speed (TGV) rail network. This project represents the first phase of an investment programme to expand SNCF's entire TGV fleet.

As well as being much quieter, the 22 Duplex trainsets financed boast a passenger capacity up to 40% higher than standard trains, depending on the layout of seating. They will initially be deployed on the Paris-Mediterranean line (especially the highly congested Paris-Lyons section), thereby freeing existing trainsets for other lines, particularly the EIB-financed TGV Est européen. The project will therefore boost passenger rail transport capacity on the TGV networks in France and - indirectly - Europe as a whole. It will also contribute to meeting the rolling stock requirements of a rapidly expanding TGV system.

This new loan confirms the EIB's commitment to supporting Trans-European Transport Networks (TENs), especially railways. It is in line with the proactive policy adopted by the EU in its bid to redress the balance between rail and road transport, reconciling growth in travel demand with the constraints of sustainable development. The EIB's contribution to financing high-speed lines (LGV) in Europe now runs to EUR 8.1 bn. It has assisted the creation of high-speed networks in Belgium (EUR 1.5 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 400 million), the United Kingdom (EUR 409 million), Spain (EUR 778 million) and Italy (EUR 2.6 billion). In France, loans totalling EUR 2.5 billion have been advanced for high-speed rail lines (EUR 341 million for TGV Atlantique, EUR 884 million for TGV Nord Europe, EUR 618 million for TGV Méditerranée and EUR 605 million for TGV Est Europe). Over the past five years, the EIB has likewise provided EUR 3.4 billion for financing the upgrading of main lines and rolling stock in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Portugal as well as in ten or so Central and Eastern European countries.

The EIB vastly scaled up its TENs lending after the Essen European Council (in December 1994), which identified 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 advanced loans totalling EUR 59.2 billion for TENs, of which EUR 37 billion for transport networks (including EUR 11.5 billion for rail links). As the leading source of bank finance for major European networks, the EIB commands the financial clout to mobilise huge sums on terms tailored to the scale of the projects concerned.