The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term investment arm of the European Union, is lending EUR 200 million to Mitsui Rail Capital Europe BV, a subsidiary of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. group, to establish a pool of about 200 locomotives to be offered for lease to European rail service operators. The first half of the loan was signed on 29 September.

The project will contribute to the development of the rail sector in line with EU objectives. Through the addition of financing capacity through leasing, the project will increase the availability and flexibility of locomotives for train operator companies throughout the European railway sector in which the average fleet age for locomotives is some 30 years. The project is a significant example of Japanese direct investment in the rail industry in Europe.

The project should stimulate the competitiveness of the rail sector and is also expected to encourage additional rail services both from existing and new rail operators across the enlarged EU. Furthermore, the project will provide an additional market outlet for European-based equipment suppliers, since Mitsui proposes to provide multi-brand predominantly European-manufactured diesel and electric units which will also meet interoperability requirements.

Since the Essen European Council (in December 1994), which identified the priority Trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications Networks, the EIB has become the leading source of bank finance for such projects. It has indeed provided, since then, EUR 63 billion for Transport TENs, a large chunk of which was devoted to rail transport. It has provided more than EUR 13 billion since 2000, to modernise existing rail lines and rolling stocksand to build high-speed rail services all throughout the enlarged European Union.