The new Avelia Horizon trains have been developed jointly by Alstom and French National Railways (SNCF) since 2016 and will operate throughout France, with delivery set to take place between 2020 and 2023. The project is expected to create 4000 jobs across the French rail industry over the next 10 years with 10 of Alstom’s French plants set to contribute.

The new trains will consist of two compact power cars and articulated double-deck coaches. The design of the train increases passenger areas by 20% and will enable SNCF to accommodate up to 740 passengers in the highest capacity configuration.

The length of the Avelia Horizon is 200m, which is the same as a TGV Duplex, but the number of passenger coaches per train can vary between seven, eight and nine. Avelia Horizon has a maximum speed of 350km/h compared with 320km/h for a TGV Duplex, a maximum output of 8MW and a maximum axleload of 17 tonnes.

SNCF says the move represents a major investment, made by possible by adjusting the TGV business model to win back customers, boost productivity and control production costs, and by the decision to stabilise track-access fees.

The contract includes a €190m budget for options that will improve both the profitability and onboard comfort of the train and SNCF says that the TGV du Futur represents “mission accomplished” to reduce the €30m cost of the TGV Duplex double-deck trains by 20% to €25m.

“This historic order, made possible by French rail reform, is a milestone in the development of our high-speed rail services,” says Mr Guillaume Pepy, chairman of the SNCF Executive Board. “For SNCF, the TGV du Futur is a key asset - and one that will help us gain ground in a European rail market open to competition.”

The award of the contract marks the second stage of the TGV du Futur project, which will cover detailed design, scaling up production, and certification over the next four years. The third stage encompasses production and the commercial rollout of the new trains while the first stage, which concludes with the contract award, focused on testing the concept’s feasibility and involved more than 2000 experts and resulted in a 100% French design.

Among the performance highlights of the new train is the regenerative braking energy system which will reduce energy consumption by 20%. In addition, 97% of the materials used to build the train are recyclable and the use of more eco-friendly materials means the train’s carbon footprint is 37% less than current trains. Maintenance costs are also expected to fall by 30% due to the train’s use of remote diagnostics systems, which will support predictive maintenance, while many of the components possess an optimised design which will simplify maintenance procedures and contribute to increases in maintenance intervals.

Onboard the trains will deploy a modular interior design, enabling the operator to adapt layouts to passenger needs and market trends with the possibility to add luggage racks and convert first-class coaches into second class in half a day. The train’s windows are 37cm longer than on the previous sets, offering 10% more glass, while a smart air-conditioning system will offer more accurate controls for greater comfort with airflow moving through ceiling vents. The train’s toilets have also been redesigned. In addition, developers worked directly with wheelchair users throughout the design process, which has resulted in these passengers benefiting from the capability to move around the train independently thanks to rotating and lifting platforms.

“This new TGV is the standard bearer for French high-speed rail,” says Ms Rachel Picard, managing director of SNCF Voyages. “And what a feat: a technological breakthrough that meets all of our goals for industrial performance and a source of pride that has generated an enthusiastic response from everyone who has worked on it. Above all, it’s a train that meets customer expectations.”