Eurostar’s 30-year monopoly on cross-Channel trains could be about to end.
Eurostar rival Evolyn is expected to run its first trains in 2025.
The high-speed rail startup is gearing up to launch a cross-Channel service from London to Paris.
“It would be the first time, after 30 years of Eurostar's monopoly, that a competitor has entered the market,” an Evolyn spokesperson told news agency Reuters.
On Wednesday, Evolyn said it agreed to purchase 12 trains from French multinational rolling stock manufacturer Alstom. This could be expanded to 16 trains, Evolyn added in a statement.
Alstom said in an email that it “confirms being in discussions with Evolyn”. The maker of France's iconic TGV train did not provide further details.
Who owns Eurostar rival Evolyn?
The total investment in the Evolyn project is £1 billion (€1.16 bn), Evolyn said in a statement, adding the trains are expected to start running in 2025, with the service in full operation in 2026.
“The owners or shareholders of this consortium are French and British partners, both industrialists and investment funds, as well as financiers, and long-standing railway professionals, and international funds interested in the project," a spokesperson for Evolyn told Reuters on Wednesday.
It did not specify who exactly the project's investors were, and what their participation is, as this is pending finalisation.
Jorge Cosmen of the Spanish industrialist family heavily invested in UK-based coach and train company Mobico - formerly National Express - is Evolyn’s CEO.
However, Mobico told Reuters via email on Wednesday that it was not part of the consortium.
The Channel Tunnel is designed for almost double the current rail traffic
Eurostar runs a lucrative business connecting London and mainland Europe via high-speed rail. In 2022, it made a record core profit of €332 million.
The company said in June that its London-Netherlands route has seen passenger volumes more than double when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
But this popular connection could be suspended from June 2024 due to renovation work on the Dutch capital’s main railway station.
Getlink, the French operator of the Channel Tunnel infrastructure, said in a statement that Evolyn’s announcement “confirms the growth potential of the cross-Channel passenger rail market”. It added that the infrastructure is designed for almost double the current rail traffic level.
The Channel Tunnel operates on an ‘open access’ basis, guaranteeing an equal right of access to any rail operator travelling between British and European networks, Getlink said.
Where will Evolyn trains go?
Evolyn is planning a non-stop service between London St Pancras International and Paris Nord, according to UK industry magazine Railway Gazette.
Stops in northern France might be added in the future but no other routes are being planned at this early stage.
Plans have been in development for three years and discussions for track access rights are underway.