FRENCH rail regulator ART has approved the long-term track access agreement signed by infrastructure manager SNCF Network with Kevin Speed. The new entrant  is planning to operate high-speed services under the Ilisto brand on three lines from the end of 2028.

ART says that the 10-year framework track access agreement signed on February 29 will not prevent the use of the infrastructure by other operators. It also notes that none of the regions where the new services will operate referred the matter to ART by the deadline of April 12.

The track access agreement signed by Kevin Speed covers the Paris - Lille, Paris - Strasbourg and Paris - Lyon lines, where the new entrant is planning to call at all intermediate stations and tap the high-speed commuter market with low-cost services.

Kevin Speed says that it is now one step closer to operating its first Ilisto service by the end of 2028. The company is working to raise a further €1.2bn in debt and equity finance which will enable it to order a fleet a of 20 seven-car trains from Alstom.

"We are very pleased with the ART's opinion, which endorses the track access framework agreement signed last February,” says Kevin Speed CEO, Mr Laurent Fourtune.

“This new step brings us even closer to the actual introduction of Ilisto trains on the rails, for the benefit of all.”

An interview with Laurent Fourtune will appear in the June issue of IRJ.