Potential Eurostar Paris-London competitor to buy 12 French trains

Evolyn says it wants to serve 11 million passengers annually from 2026, with ‘better-value tickets’ from Paris to London and beyond

A view of a Eurostar train with a door open on a train platform
Evolyn has said that its service “would be the first time, after 30 years of Eurostar's monopoly, that a competitor has entered the market”
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Evolyn, a Spain-based consortium aiming to challenge Eurostar’s monopoly on cross-Channel services, has agreed to buy 12 trains from French train manufacturing company Alstom as part of a €1.16 billion project.

The 12-train agreement could be expanded to 16 trains in future, the company said. The trains are expected to begin services in 2025, reaching maximum operational capacity by 2026.

The trains will run between London and Paris at first, before expanding to Paris-Brussels, and then other destinations across the UK and continental Europe.

In a statement, Evolyn told Reuters: "It would be the first time, after 30 years of Eurostar's monopoly, that a competitor has entered the market.

“The owners / shareholders of this consortium are French and British partners, both industrialists and investment funds, as well as financiers, long-standing railway professionals and international funds interested in the project,” it said, adding that it expected to serve 11 million passengers per year at peak operation.

A spokesperson said that “we will offer better-value tickets”.

Alstom makes French high-speed TGVs (trains à haute vitesse) but it has suffered from a slowdown in orders in recent months.

Getlink, the French operator of the Channel Tunnel, said in a statement that the 12-train deal “confirms the growth potential of the cross-Channel passenger rail market”. It said that the existing infrastructure could cope with double the current number of services.

Eurostar is 55% owned by French operator SNCF. It struggled during the pandemic, posting a loss of €480 million in 2020 and 2021. It recovered last year with earnings of €332 million.

However, it has still not matched its pre-Covid figures or passenger numbers, with 19 million people having travelled on Eurostar in 2019, versus 15 million in 2022.

Despite Evolyn’s bold statements, it is not the first company to attempt to challenge Eurostar’s monopoly.

In 2013, the German group Deutsche Bahn did so, but gave up after a lukewarm response from the French and British governments.

In 2021, Spanish operator Renfe said it would be interested in operating Paris-London services, but has remained quiet on any plans since then although it does now operate two lines in France, from Lyon and Marseille to Madrid and Barcelona.

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