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France’s Proxima to invest 1 billion euros to compete with SNCF

It will compete against SNCF on high-speed routes to and from Paris which are currently saturated.

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Proxima, a new French high-speed rail operator, has announced an ambitious €1 billion investment plan, backed by Antin Infrastructure Partners. Proxima aims to acquire 12 Avelia Horizon trainsets(known as TGV-M by SNCF) and operate open access trains from Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes and Angers to Paris.

These are routes that have seen a huge increase in demand in recent years, with train occupancy at record highs. Proxima expects to offer 10 million seats per year.

The company has been founded by Rachel Picard, former CEO of SNCF Mobilités, who was involved in the development of the Ouigo brand; and Timothy Jackson, founder of leasing company Alpha Trains (originally Angel Trains) and former CEO of RATP Dev for Britain and Ireland.

Proxima aims to “reinvent the experience for its diverse customers” by listening to their needs and reflecting changes in consumer behaviour and changing lifestyles. This includes the growth of remote working, the “erosion of the boundary between business and leisure” and the demand for better on-board connectivity.

Proxima negotiates with Alstom to acquire 12 Avelia Horizons

The first phase of the project would involve an investment of around 1 billion euros for the purchase and maintenance of rolling stock, launch costs and working capital requirements. Proxima has entered into exclusive negotiations with Alstom for the supply and maintenance of 12 Avelia Horizon trainsets, with options for more. It is envisaged that testing could begin in 2027.

In addition, Proxima has reached an agreement with Lisea, the infrastructure concessionaire of the Bordeaux-Tours high-speed line for the use of a maintenance and parking depot in Marcheprime, 20 km south of Bordeaux. All these efforts are aimed, according to the operator, at placing the train as the backbone of a new mobility model in which the customer and his needs are at the centre, extending the network of destinations and supporting the reduction of emissions in transport.

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