Some of the most impressive
trains seen in the UK are the Eurostar sets which operate between the
UK and France/Belgium. The Channel Tunnel project, which began with the
signing of the Anglo-French Fixed-Link Treaty on July 29, 1987, had progressed
enough by the end of 1989 to start the long process of ordering stock.
Prior to that, detailed discussions between the three main railway administrations,
BR (Britain), SNCF (France) and SNCB (Belgium) had taken place to establish
the type of train required.
From the outset it was known that the most desirable option was to equip
with French TGV type trains, the French were keen to follow this path
as their trains were highly successful. The UK however favoured a more
conventional loco hauled train, which frankly would not have performed
so well. In the UK the Channel Tunnel operation was led by a separately
formed company, European Passenger Services (EPS), a wholly-owned subsidiary
at the time of the BRB. To produce a design which was going to be acceptable
to the three countries, a working group, the International Project Group
(IPG), was formed in 1988 and concentrated on both technical and commercial
viability of train designs.
Huge problems existed in developing a train, which was capable of working
over the railway systems of three countries, as well through the Channel
Tunnel, all had their own specific operating and rule structures and all
were loathe to change principles. The main area of problem was that of
gauge envelope, on the BR network, a very much more restricted space was
available between the train and structures compared to mainland Europe,
which had followed the UIC or Berne gauge.
Eventually a design consortium was formed of De Dietrich, Ateliers de
Construction Electrique de Charleroi (ACEC Transport), BN Division de
Bombardier Eurorail, GEC-Alsthom Transportation, Metro-Cammell and Brush.
The leading voice was GEC Alsthom - the builders of the TGV.
Mechanically, the adopted design followed the French TGV, however, many
changes were needed to make it suitable for UK operation, this included
its physical size, which led to a total redesign. To maximise throughput
of trains through the Channel Tunnel, long trainsets of 20 coaches was
specified. The axle-load had to be kept down to the TGV standard of 17
tonnes as in France and Belgium the sets would operate over conventional
TGV tracks. On power cars, traction motors had to be body-mounted rather
than bogie-mounted, which assisted in reduced track wear. An articulated
design was eventually accepted, which permitted lower-slung vehicles.
The original contract for Eurostar trains as they became known was signed
in Brussels on December 18 1989, for 30 20-vehicle sets. Subsequently
a follow-on order was placed, giving a fleet of 31. This number was maintained
for just a short while, as following an agreement for development of north
of London working, seven extra shorter (16-car) trains were added.
Ownership of Eurostars - classified by BR/Railtrack as Class 373, is complex,
the original European Passenger Services, now Eurostar UK own 18 sets,
including seven regional trains, SNCF 16 sets, and SNCB - four sets. Construction
of the trains was divided between the participating countries, split by
percentage 40:40:20 between France, England and Belgium.
The 31 20-car trains are each formed of two identical half-train 10 car
formations, with a driving power car and nine passenger cars, the one
coupled to the power car having traction equipment at that end and a power
bogie. A full 20-vehicle Eurostar seats 210 first and 584 standard class
passengers, giving a total of 794 seats per train. In addition, 52 tip-up
seats are provided.
The Regional sets are formed of 16 vehicles - two driving and 14 saloons.
Total seating is for 578 plus 36 tip-up (114 first and 464 standard class).
The Eurostar sets are without doubt the most complex trains in the world.
By virtue of the routes operated, they have to work from three different
power supplies including both ac and dc obtained from both the third rail
and overhead systems, as well as operating over four different railway
systems. The change-over between the different power supplies is carried
out while on the move, with the train running into dead or
neutral sections. The action to change power is effected manually by the
It was agreed that the Eurostar sets would be built at various plants
in Europe and then joined together as full train consists at either Belfort
in France or Washwood Heath in Birmingham.
The first Eurostar was built at Belfort in 1992. Identified as PS1 it
was formed of just seven coaches and two power cars, and was delivered
for test running in January 1993. Its first powered runs were between
Strasbourg and Mulhouse. By June 1993 the set was transferred to England
for dc tests, arriving on June 20.
In May 1993, the second pre-service set, PS2 - a full 20-car train - was
delivered for testing. After shake down trials from La Landy (Paris),
the set started high-speed running on the Paris-Lille route in July, when,
for the first time a Eurostar reached its maximum speed of 300km/h (186mph).
The first UK-built train, UK1, formed of Belgian half-sets Nos. 3101/02,
was delivered from Washwood Heath, to North Pole on October 31, 1993.
Eurostar passenger trains started operation from Waterloo to Paris/Brussels
in autumn 1994, with, at first, two trains per day to each destination.
By 2001 this had increased to around 25 departures per day.
Regrettably the Regional or North of London service has never been introduced,
due to a far lower than expected projected passenger figure.
After the Regional service was dropped, the sets were stored at North
Pole depot. In 2000 two entered a hire contract with GNER and are now
used on selected Kings Cross-York services, a third set was added
to the hire deal in late 2001.
When introduced the Eurostar sets were finished in a most distinctive
white and blue livery with full yellow ends. The first change came in
1999 when full train length advertising liveries was introduced on a small
number of sets (excluding power cars). The two sets operated by GNER,
have been repainted in full GNER dark blue.
One spare power car No. 3999 exists which can be used on any set and usually,
when not in use is kept at North Pole.
Two French sets 3203/04//26/27/28 have now been modified for domestic