Spain inaugurated on Tuesday a rail line from Barcelona to the French border that completes the process of linking the two nations' high-speed passenger rail services.

The route from Barcelona to the border city of Figueres will become operational Wednesday with nine trains running in each direction.

Eight of the southbound trains will connect with the Barcelona-Madrid line, while two northbound trains offer links to France's TGV line to Paris.

Completion of the latest line leaves Spain second only to China in the size of its high-speed rail network, with 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) in service.

Construction of the latest link cost more than 3.7 billion euros ($4.8 billion), not including renovations to the train stations in Barcelona, Girona and Figueres-Vilafant.

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan regional President Artur Mas rode the first train from Barcelona to Figueres.

The high-speed rail network is an element of national cohesion and has given Spanish firms valuable experience with the technology, the prince said during the inaugural ceremony.

"Public and private enterprises from across Spain are obtaining very important contracts in many countries of the world, such as the AVE of the desert, which will link the cities of Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia," Felipe said.

The high-speed rail project "is not an isolated milestone," Premier Rajoy said. "It is, on the contrary, an unbeatable story of our ambition as a country." EFE