Planned Eurostar competitor Evolyn to buy 12 trains from France’s Alstom

(Reuters) -Evolyn said on Wednesday it agreed to purchase 12 trains from Alstom for its planned high-speed rail service under the English Channel, which aims to challenge Eurostar’s monopoly on the connection.

The purchase of 12 trains from France’s Alstom could be expanded to 16 trains, Evolyn said in a statement.

“It would be the first time, after 30 years of Eurostar’s monopoly, that a competitor has entered the market,” an Evolyn spokesperson told Reuters.

Alstom, whose shares have recently plunged after a cash warning from a slowdown in orders, said in an e-mail that it “confirms being in discussions with Evolyn,”.

The maker of France’s iconic TGV train did not however provide further details.

The total investment in the Evolyn project is 1 billion pounds ($1.23 billion), 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 finalization.

Eurostar runs a lucrative business connecting London and mainland Europe via high-speed rail, having made a record core profit of 332 million euros ($352.48 million) for 2022. The company said in June that its London-Netherlands route has seen passenger volumes more than double when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Media had reported that Spanish industrialist family Cosmen, an investor in coach and train company Mobico – formerly National Express – was one of the investors.

Mobico told Reuters in an e-mail on Wednesday that it was not part of the consortium.

Getlink, the French operator of transport infrastructure in the underwater Channel Tunnel, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 0.8140 pounds)

($1 = 0.9419 euros)

(Reporting by Diana Mandiá, Clément Martinot and Olivier Sorgho; Editing by Louise Heavens and Sharon Singleton)