French rail start-up Kevin Speed has signed its first Track Access Framework Agreement (TAFA) with the country’s rail infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau, securing its access to three lines from Paris for its “ilisto” services set to begin in 2028. 

The company, which is hoping to offer low-cost high-speed services connecting rural areas with major cities, will begin with three services between Paris and Lille, Strasbourg and Lyon and is the first to take advantage of a TAFA in the French high-speed rail market. 

Guy Saidenberg, partner and CFO of Kevin Speed, said: “The French high-speed rail market is the largest in Europe, both in terms of passengers and revenues. 

“Its natural macroeconomic growth is accelerating under the modal shift from car to rail engineered by French authorities pursuant to their 2030 carbon emissions targets. With our fleet of 20 trains, we will satisfy this new demand for affordable, 300 km/h commuting service around Paris.” 

Kevin Speed’s agreement with SNCF Réseau, signed for an initial 10-year period, also means it has committed to its purchase of 20 trainsets from Alstom, which are scheduled to begin trials on the network from 2026. 

A map of France showing Kevin Speed's planned service routes from Paris to Lille, Lyon, and Strasbourg
Kevin Speed is planning to begin services in 2028. Credit: Kevin Speed/ilisto

Additionally, the start-up said it will build three maintenance workshops halfway along each line it will serve, creating 450 jobs in the process. 

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The agreement also marks the beginning of a new round of financing for the company, which is looking to raise €1.2bn in debt and equity, with Nomura, Santander CIB and long-term partner EY mandated. 

Jérôme Calvet, CEO of Nomura in France and financial advisor to Kevin Speed, said: “We are delighted that we have been mandated to raise debt and equity capital supporting the Kevin Speed project. 

“The framework agreement with SNCF Réseau provides the required guarantees to secure long-term financing to support a ground-breaking project boasting solid market potential, a strong business plan, as well as the expertise of the Kevin Speed team.” 

Kevin Speed is not the only start-up hoping to make an impact on the French high-speed network, with another open-access provider called Le Train also intending to launch services in 2025 after multiple funding rounds.