Proxima will compete with SNCF high-speed trains in France

France’s national rail operator, SNCF, is going to get an extra competitor. Backed by an investment fund, the new company Proxima plans to acquire 12 high-speed trains by the decade’s end to link Paris with Angers, Rennes, Nantes, and Bordeaux.

Rachel Picard, co-founder and chief executive of Proxima, is well-known in the railway world. Until the early 2020s, she was the TGV boss at SNCF. Proxima will become France’s first independent high-speed train operator if the launch goes ahead.

10 million new seats

Proxima intends to offer 10 million new seats on the Atlantic axis. It plans to use 12 of Avelia Horizon’s latest generation high-speed trains, the same model as the TGV M that SNCF is going to put into service in the second half of 2025.

These latest-generation double-decker trains, built by Alstom, offer more seats than current TGVs: 720 passengers for the TGV M, compared with 560.

For the maintenance of the trainsets, Proxima has signed an agreement with Lisea, the concession holder for the high-speed line between Tours and Bordeaux (Vinci Group), to use its maintenance center, currently under construction at Marcheprime, near Bordeaux.

New projects struggle to get off the ground

Proxima’s announcement comes as several independent companies have recently abandoned their efforts. Midnight Trains, which wanted to relaunch night trains, just gave up after its second fundraising round failed. The Railcoop cooperative, whose main objective was to reopen the direct Bordeaux-Lyon line, was liquidated at the end of April.

Other rail start-ups want to launch soon, such as Kevin Speed, which has committed to buying 20 trains from Alstom to open links between Paris and Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg by 2028.

Le Train, created in 2020, plans to launch regional high-speed services in western France in 2026 and has ordered 10 trains from Spanish manufacturer Talgo.

€1 billion support from Antin Infrastructure Partner

Proxima points to two phenomena to justify the launch of the project: the emergence of an ecological conscience among travelers, leading them to prefer the train to the plane, and the development of teleworking since the Covid-19 pandemic, leading employees to live further and further away from their jobs.

Proxima has obtained the support of an investment fund, Antin Infrastructure Partner, one of the world leaders in infrastructure investment, to carry out the project. Through their one billion euro investment, Antin has become Proxima’s main shareholder.

Rachel Picard will co-manage Proxima with her business partner Timothy Jackson, who headed RATP activities in Great Britain and Ireland but also founded Alpha Trains, a rolling stock rental company.

The first dynamic tests with the Proxima trains will normally take place at the beginning of 2027.


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