After Railcoop and Le Train, our four-part series on the new actors shaking up the Euro rail industry this week turns its focus to Kevin Speed. Like Midnight Trains, but with ideas very different to our ‘hotels on rails’, this business is among those that set out to conquer the railways since they were privatised here in France. In this third part, we’ll be focusing on Speed’s plans for super-regular high-speed services between Paris and the surrounding region.
‘La Grande Vitesse, pour tous, et tous les jours!’ (‘High speed, for all, and every day!’). Kevin Speed’s slogan makes the firm’s objective very clear: make high-speed trains financially viable and accessible to all. To do that, Laurent Fourtune, formerly of Getlink (previously the Eurotunnel), wants to introduce new services between Paris and all regional destinations less than two hours from the capital. It will be a blend of the RER and TGV, a sort of ‘Grande Vitesse’ RER that would be ideal for regular commutes.
The idea behind Kevin Speed is above all to appeal to a wider customer base than traditional high-speed trains. Even its name references this objective, Kevin being a very popular working-class name in 1970s France. The prices evidently reflect this desire for accessibility, with each 100 kilometres travelled likely to cost around three euros.
Kevin Speed aims for its trains to run 12 times a day, with three drivers looking after four services each. The business is also counting on using short trains to limit maintenance and packed out thanks to a layout comprising five rows side by side. It’s only under these conditions that the ultra-competitive prices can be made possible (and profitable).
Another thing to note about this ambitious project is that it relies on a rather revolutionary form of collaboration between employees and passengers. According to Laurent Fourtune, this will allow it to create clean, timely trains – essential for a shuttle system with high rotation of services. Passengers will thus be able to point out flaws in management and issues on the line to improve the experience for everyone. This initiative aims to allow regular passengers to get to know each other and possibly to travel together (for example, by taxi) on the final legs of their journey.
By contrast with Railcoop and Le Train, which are aiming to launch in late 2022 or early 2023, Kevin Speed wants to open its first lines in 2025 to 2026. According to the CEO, the firm still has to buy trains and reserve timetable slots. Little information has thus far been made public about its financing and fundraising initiatives. So while the road may appear quite long, we really do hope the team manages to succeed with this innovative and ambitious project. Because we’ll say it again: we sincerely think that the railway is a market far more open to creativity and originality than you might think. So good luck to all those who one day join us in this thoroughly exciting industry.