The Gravesend Railway Enthusiasts Society

                                            Class 373 Eurostar high speed electric multiple units

Ushering in high speed rail travel to the UK , these 18 car train sets were built by GEC –Alstom and were introduced in 1993 for the London Waterloo to Brussels and Paris services via the Channel Tunnel.

Each train has 750 seats, with styling of the passenger cabins similar to airline practice, in my personal view initially somewhat cramped in standard class. However, I understand that comfort has been improved recently in standard class, with more comfortable seating, new carpets, and extra luggage space provision through the removal of some seats.

Business class travellers enjoy additional comfort in the form of reclining seats, personal lighting and superior seating. Refreshments are provided via two bar buffet cars on each Eurostar train. Designs incorporate special fire-proofing for operation in the Channel Tunnel. Interestingly, the small size of the drivers window is deliberate, to avoid hypnotic effects while in tunnel.

Currently (2009) services are managed by a subsidiary of London and Continental Railways: Eurostar (UK) Ltd, via a consortium made up of the National Express Group, SNCF, SNCB and British Airways.

Trains are maintained and serviced in the UK at Temple Mills depot near Stratford in east London . In France , maintenance is carried out at Le Landy depot in northern Paris , and in Belgium at Brussels Forest depot.

Now that the UK HS1 route is fully opened, the use of traditional signalling via sighting has been dispensed with, and relies on a cab mounted TBTC (Transmission-based Train Control) system. At high speed, the driver is considered to be unable to see line side signals reliably. Separate indications and controls are fitted for the French and Belgian domestic systems, HS1 & TGV routes.


Initial designs allowed for operation from one of three voltages, either overhead 25KV AC in France, overhead 3KV DC in Belgium or 0.75KV 3rd rail DC in the UK, with the final use of overhead 25KV AC intended in the UK once the high speed line was complete.

Between 1994 and 2003 the units ran almost entirely on existing tracks, sharing with domestic services between Cheriton, where the Channel Tunnel begins and the purpose constructed terminal at Waterloo . Power was taken from the existing 750 Volt DC 3rd rail system bequeathed by the former Southern railway.

With the opening of Section 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in 2003, units operated on dual 750V DC and 25KV AC. The changeover between voltages took place at Southfleet, close to Fawkham junction where operation from 750 Volt DC commenced. Now with the opening of the complete HS1 route into St Pancras in 2007, power is now derived from overhead 25KV AC throughout, and the contact shoes for 3rd rail supplies have been removed.

Bob Poole

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