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High-speed rail is emerging in Europe as an increasingly popular and efficient means of transport. The first high-speed rail lines in Europe, built in the 1980s and 1990s, improved travel times on intra-national corridors. Since then, several countries have built extensive high-speed networks, and there are now several cross-border high-speed rail links. Railway operators frequently run international services, and tracks are continuously being built and upgraded to international standards on the emerging European high-speed rail network. In 2007, a consortium of European railway operators, Railteam, emerged to coordinate and boost cross-border high-speed rail travel. Developing a Trans-European high-speed rail network is a stated goal of the European Union, and most cross-border railway lines receive EU funding. Today only the core countries of Western Europe are 'plugged in' to a cross-border high-speed railway network. This will change rapidly in the coming years as Europe invests heavily in tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure and development projects across the continent.

Integration of European High-speed rail network

The Trans-European high-speed rail network is one of a number of the European Union's Trans-European transport networks. It was defined by the Council Directive 96/48/EC of 23 July 1996.

The aim of this EU Directive is to achieve the interoperability of the European high-speed train network at the various stages of its design, construction and operation.

The network is defined as a system consisting of a set of infrastructures, fixed installations, logistic equipment and rolling stock.

On 5 June 2010, the European Commissioner for Transport signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France and Spain concerning a new high speed rail line across the Pyrenees to become the first link between the high speed lines of the two countries. Furthermore, high speed lines between Helsinki and Berlin (Rail Baltica), and between Lyon and Budapest, were promoted.