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Rail firm Evolyn invest £1 billion in new cross-Channel services - but they won’t stop at Ashford or Ebbsfleet International

Eurostar could face competition for the first time in its 28-year-history as another rail firm buys 12 trains to run the cross-Channel route.

Evolyn plans to run a non-stop London to Paris route and has invested £1 billion to launch the service by 2025.

Eurostar could see a new competitor in firm Evolyn
Eurostar could see a new competitor in firm Evolyn

The company said it is led by the Spanish Cosmen family – an investor in coach and train company Mobico, formerly known as National Express – and is backed by “important British and French industrial and financial partners”.

It said it has reached an agreement to acquire 12 trains from French manufacturer Alstom, with an “option to scale up to 16”.

Evolyn chief executive Jorge Cosmen said: “The acquisition of 12 high-speed, state-of-the-art trains, to be expanded to a minimum of 16 according to our forecasts, is the definitive step in the materialisation of Evolyn, a high-speed rail operator that has been under development for three years.

“We know that the governments of the UK and France welcome a project that will allow their citizens to increase the connection options between the UK and several countries in continental Europe with a green alternative that will also contribute to decarbonisation.”

Eurostar is the only company that has run passenger trains since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.

No trains to the Continent have run from Ashford International since services were suspended during lockdown
No trains to the Continent have run from Ashford International since services were suspended during lockdown

Other proposed rival operators have been unable to overcome regulatory hurdles.

But Eurostar has not stopped in Kent – at international stations Ashford and Ebbsfleet – since March 2020, the start of the pandemic.

The firm can not yet afford to re-start services until at least 2025, bosses say.

The move has sparked anger among passengers who now have to travel to London to catch services bound for the continent.

Getlink, parent company of Eurotunnel, says it welcomed Evolyn’s announcement, adding that the Tunnel is designed to carry more than 20 million high-speed passengers across the Channel each year, almost double the current level.

Yann Leriche, chief executive of Getlink, said: "The announcement by Evolyn confirms the economic and technical attractiveness of the conditions for access to Eurotunnel's infrastructure, as well as the huge potential for growth in high-speed rail traffic through the Channel Tunnel.”

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