In 1999, SNCF did not only order 180 BB 27000 bi-voltage electrics for its freight operator, SNCF Fret, but also demanded Alstom to develop two different tri-voltage versions; the designated BB 37000 and BB 37500 series. With these machines SNCF Fret could offer international freight services, (in)to the northern and eastern neighbouring countries.
Initially, SNCF ordered 29 BB 37000s (1,5kV DC, 15 and 25KV AC) and one BB 37500 locomotive (3kV DC, 15 and 25KV AC). However, the second type was never built. In stead, Belfort did produce a four-system version, the Prima6000 demonstrator locomotive, to be able to join an order for the Belgium railways.
In 2005, thirty additional BB 37000s were ordered. An extra machine took the place of the never-to-be BB 37500 in the Fret fleet. These thirty machines were originally planned as BB 27181-27210, but a tri-voltage seemed better useful at that time.
The approval of the tri-voltage units in France’s neighbouring countries was a very slow and difficult process, it took until the end of 2006 (Germany) and February 2007 (Switzerland) before first locomotives could be used for nonstop freight services.
Fret SNCF never operated all sixty units on the same time. Before the last one was delivered, BB 37007 crashed. It collided with a CFL double-deck train set on 11.10.2006 near Zoufftgen. In the same month the BB 37060 was delivered, the BB 37007 was officially scrapped.
Note that this type is designated BB 37000, but that machines are actually numbered as 437000 series. This is because the French number system adds a prefix to service numbers which tells us for which department of the company the machine is running. The Prefix 4 means SNCF Fret, also freight services.
On 01.01.2009, the SNCF Group founded AKIEM, a 100% subsidiary for leasing activities. All BB 37000s gradually became property of Akiem and available for lease.