START-UP company Evolyn has announced plans to introduce a new high-speed service from London via the Channel Tunnel to Paris in 2025 with the full service available in 2026. This would be the first time that incumbent Eurostar has faced competition on the lucrative route since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.

A total of £1bn will be invested in the project, according to Evolyn, which is led by the Spanish Cosmen family, major shareholders in transport group Mobico (formerly National Express Group). French and British industrial and financial partners are also supporting the project.

“Evolyn is therefore the result of a combination of broad and proven industrial experience combined with a high level of financial solidity,” the company said in a statement.

Evolyn says it wants to purchase a fleet of 12 trains initially with an option for another four trains to operate the new service. While Evolyn claims to have reached an agreement with Alstom for the acquisition of Avelia high-speed trains, Alstom will only confirm that discussions have started.

“The acquisition of 12 state-of-the-art high-speed trains, which we plan to expand to a minimum of 16, represents the materialisation of the Evolyn project, a high-speed rail operator that has been under development for three years and today marks an important milestone,” says the company’s CEO, Mr Jorge Cosmen.

“We know that the French and British governments welcome a project that will allow their citizens to increase the possibilities of connection between several continental European countries and the United Kingdom thanks to an ecological solution that will also contribute to decarbonisation.”

Fleet and service plans

IRJ understands that the 12 single-deck trains will be suitable for operation across the wider European network, rather than a bespoke train built primarily for operation on the cross-Channel link. Evolyn says it plans to lease the trains rather than purchase them outright.

Evolyn also told IRJ that it is too early to confirm how many daily services it will operate, and while it plans to start operating from Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras, it intends to increase the number of stations and countries it serves. “The aim is to extend the connection between the UK and the EU,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that “all necessary processes are in place” regarding applications for train paths with Britain’s HS1, Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, and SNCF Network in France.

Getlink says the Channel Tunnel and the networks that connect it are designed to carry more than 20 million high-speed passengers across the Channel each year, almost double the current level. “The announcement by Evolyn confirms the growth potential of the cross-Channel passenger rail market, as well as the attractiveness and quality of the Channel Tunnel infrastructure,” Getlink said in a statement.

“30 years since the start of this service, we believe that the time is right to provide a more customer-centric, more sustainable and more digital service,” Evolyn says. “We aim to exceed customer expectations and become their operator of choice. We want to differentiate ourselves by offering the best customer experience in terms of quality, modernity, digitalisation and sustainability, all with the best price:quality ratio at competitive prices.”