The trains will replace locomotive-hauled Corail trains which are used for services branded Intercités in France and is part of an initial €510m revamp of loss-making operations on the conventional network approved by the SNCF board last week.

The new trains are bi-mode allowing operation on electrified and non-electrified lines throughout the French network and are due to enter service in December 2015. The sets can carry up to 267 passengers and Alstom says that the use of distributed traction will improve braking and acceleration performance compared with existing locomotive-hauled trains. The trains are also significantly lighter than their predecessors which will reduce energy consumption by an estimated 30%, and have been designed to maximise internal capacity to speed up boarding at stations.

In addition to purchasing the new trains, the funding package approved by the SNCF board encompasses building depots to maintain the new rolling and includes an option to release an additional €100m for the project.

An improvement to France's inter-city rail services was initiated by prime minister Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault in July when he said that the France would replace its entire inter-city train fleet by 2025, prompting a shift away from investment in high-speed to the conventional network.

This initial procurement of 34 trains is set to be followed by an additional procurement in 2015 with those trains expected to enter service in 2018-19, replacing most of the remaining Corail coaches.