In France, "Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français" is the state-owned society that manages the whole train network (31 385 kilometers of rails).
It was created on January 1st, 1938 - more than a century after the creation of the very first railway in France.
1955 saw the first world record for train speed: 331 km/h. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse = High Speed Train) appears in 1981: it brings the world record up to 380 km/h, and maximum commercial speed to 260 km/h, then 270 km/h. New records will be broken in the following years, as new versions of the TGV come to life: 482 km/h on December 5th, 1989, then 525 km/h on May 18th, 1990.
All the while, new lines are opened throughout Europe, like the Eurostar linking Paris to London in 3 hours, thanks to the newly built/dug Channel tunnel. In 1996, Thalys links Paris to Brussel.
Meanwhile, new kind of trains are developped for regional travels, like the TER (Transports Express Regionaux) or the RER (Réseau Express Régional).
Nowadays, more than 900 millions people travel with the SNCF yearly - among them are more than 80 millions for the TGV only, and 600 millions for the Paris region (Ile de France) only.