A brief, and very enjoyable trip to Paris last weekend provided me with my first experience of the Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel. Incredible to think it’s been going for 13 years.
You’ll have to excuse me if, with all the excitement, I temporarily go into nerd mode…
The Eurostar trains, Class 373s in Britain, are essentially TGV mk3 sets.
- Differences from other TGVs include:
an especially designed nose to minimise shockwaves as they cruise the 31 mile tunnel at 99mph
- third rail 750VDC pickup (which caused all the delays when the service began, and is to allow them to run, very, very slowly across our commuter lines)
- they are seperable in the middle, a tunnel safety feature (TGV have shorter carriages which share a truck under the couplings).
- they are equipped for three voltages: 750VDC (UK third rail), 25kV AC (high speed lines) and 3kVDC (French and Belgian lines) with some equiped for 1.5kVDC in Souther France
- besides being equipped for different voltages they can cope with different heights of catenary: regular height French and Belgian, the special low height on TGV lines, and extra high in the tunnel (where the double decker lorry cars require it).
The 18 coach Electic Multiple Units (EMUs) are 394m long. That’s approximately 180m longer than one of our 8 coach InterCity 125s. It’s also about 1/4 mile in imperial!
They achieve speeds of up to 186mph in France, and on the new section of the high speed rail link in the UK (which, when it opened, cut 20 minutes off the journey time). They hold the UK rail speed record at 208mph. This compares with 125mph in service for our InterCity 125s, which hold the record (at 148mph) as the world’s fastest diesels.
- Some sets not used by Eurostar are in use in France as TGVs by SNCF, others have been run by GNER from Kings Cross to Leeds (until December 2005).
- The station consists of a viaduct supporting 5 platforms covered by a 1/4 mile glass canopy.
- The award winning design is by Nicholas Grimshaw, who was also responsible for the Eden project.
- I’m sure I recollect somewhere, but can’t confirm it, that the elevated 400m station can compress by up to 2m to absorb some of the momentum of the 752 tonne trains braking.
- It will cease to serve as the terminus for Eurostar trains on November 14 when the high speed link to St Pancras is opened.
- Alternative uses for the site under consideration include a shopping centre, offices, or use by South West Trains. The latter, whilst the favoured option, is complicated by the work that would need to be done on the approach roads (or the building of a flyover at Clapham Junction). This might mean mothballing the station for up to five years, although it’s more likely it will be used in the interim to provide capacity for other upgrades to Waterloo. At 400m the platforms might be shortened in favour of some retail.