Evolyn, which plans to rival Eurostar’s high-speed trains between Paris and London, has ordered its first 12 trains from French train builder Alstom.
Plans for a competitor to Eurostar’s high-speed trains via the Channel Tunnel became public in July. Behind Evolyn are French and British companies, which reportedly include British transport operator Monica, the former National Express with a stake in London & Continental Railways (L&CR), Eurostar’s first-ever operator.
Breaking a monopoly
The order may still be expanded to 16 trains, according to Reuter. The Eurostar Group has a fleet of 51 trains, 25 Eurostar and 26 Thalys – which has continued under the Eurostar brand name since September of this year.
The plan for the Evolyn trains is to begin operating in 2025, reaching cruising speed in 2026. “It would be the first time, after 30 years of Eurostar, that a competitor enters the market”, said an Evolyn spokesperson.
The financiers are said to have invested 1 billion British pounds (some 1,16 billion euros) in the entire project.
15 services now
Since the launch of the undersea rail link through the Channel Tunnel in 1994, several companies have already announced plans to compete with the Eurostar monopoly, for example, Deutsche Bahn or Spain’s Renfe. But until now, there has never been such an alternative.
French railroad company SNCF is the majority shareholder (55,75%) of Eurostar, while Belgian railroad company NMBS/SNCB has an 18,5% stake.
Eurostar is normally currently running 15 services per day between London and Paris.
Robust passenger numbers again for Eurostar
In addition to the Paris-London line, the Eurostar Group also runs the Brussels-Paris line, among others. Brussels-Midi is the heart of the Eurostar network, with trains to and from France, the UK, the Netherlands (Amsterdam), and Germany (Cologne).
The Eurostar Group carried 14,8 million passengers in 2022 and posted revenues of 1,53 billion euros. The group is on track to carry as many passengers this year as it did in 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Eurostar Group, which has the largest international high-speed network in Western Europe, aims to serve 30 million Eurostar passengers annually by 2030.
Meanwhile, more than 30 000 people have signed a petition calling for Eurostar services in Kent to be reinstated. The train hasn’t stopped at Ebbsfleet and Ashford International since the start of the pandemic.
According to the BBC, Eurostar has confirmed it will not be running services to or from stations in Kent in 2023 or 2024 and says it understands this was “disappointing”.