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Communications link - Super High Speed Trains - Eurostars          

 Eurostar Group and other companies
The Eurostar International Limited
(ex. Eurostar Group) is owned by some of the industrys largest railroad operators Eurostar UK limited (not to be confused with Eurostar itself), SNCF (French National Railways) and SNCB (Belgian National Railways). The Eurostar Group operates slightly improved TGV-type trainsets in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and occasionally other countries all together to over 100 stations. In the winter time it has been a custom that the Eurostar unit take British skiers to the French side of the Swiss alps snow. There are currently 27 Eurostar (half) units for Eurostar capitals (the international traffic version) and 7 regional Eurostars. While the traffic figures have been growing strongly for years, the company has announced it will acquire new trains like we predicted earlier. For Eurostar as a company this is as much solidifying its market share with the coming competition as coping with the ever groving passenger numbers after the recession. The new trainsets should also be able to achieve 360 km/h (224 mph) speeds where the track allows for connecting London with continent even faster. 
 Beginnings of the Eurostar Saga * Infrastructure Overview * Competition Environment * Eurostar Future * ...    

 Competition Environment
Deutsche Bahn
, the largest railroad and logistics company in Europe, wished to buy a share of Eurostar operations, but initially no one wanted to sell their share of the lucrative operation, so the company is likely to compete on some routes of train travel with the Eurostar group in the few coming years. The competition has been possible from beginning of the year 2010 (EU open access for passenger traffic), and since the British side no more has a restrictive loading gauge nor unusual third rail electric lines, the normal trainsets like Velaro or AGV should be ok for the route. Using these trains the units have to be lengthened a bit remembering that the Channel Tunnel trains must be the length of 400 meters even after renewed safety regulations come into effect. There will no longer be need for the separation of each 400 meter unit into two halves.
Other operators besides DB have also been reported as interested in the route. In the late 2009 it was reported that a conclusion had been reached, that the DB would become part of the consortium probabaly by buying some of the SNCF (current majority shareholder) shares. However,  SNCF did not sell it's stock nor did others, so currently Deurtsche Bahn is getting ready for  it's own traffic on the Channel tunnel, from London to destinations in Germany. The test run is scheduled for october 19th 2010 on a brand new Velaro-D / ICE3 (class 406) super high speed EMU. 

To make things even more interesting in the competition front the SNCF (the French Railways) is testing also it's standard TGV-Dasye (the newest double decked variant) on the route. This might signal the readiness to run the normal, although double length TGV's on the route. The SNCF has been studying the possibility for years with Alstom making suggestions on how the train set should look like. 
 Subjects in Eurostar Category   
  Eurostar Saga Beginnings  
  Infrastructure Overview  
  Eurostar Trains Types and Technology  
  Future of the Eurostar and Other Operators of Channel Tunnel  
  Eurostar Incidents  
  Eurostar Train Units Roster Pictures and Stories            

 Beginning of the Eurostar Saga
The First Eurostars were ordered in late 1989 to transport passengers between the capitals of U.K, France and Belgium through the Channel Tunnel, one of the mightiest investments for the time. These original trainsets were built in 1993 - 1994 starting revenue service in 1994 once the tunnel was opened. In addition to the 30 original (half) trains sets another 8 were added later. There are two subtypes of the Eurostars: Eurostar "Capitals" with 18 (2x9) trailers is a length of two TGV sets (393 meters long) as the Eurostar "Regional" with its 14 trailers is "just" 318 meters long. The latter is the maximum length for the British platforms, while the 393 meters is close to double TGV length of 400 meters, which is typical maximum length of the French platforms. Both Eurostar train types can seen just about anywhere along the super high speed lines in Western most Europe: U.K., France, Belgium, Netherlands.

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 Infrasturucture overview  
The original route for most of the Eurostar train sets was through the 1994 finished Channel tunnel between London, U.K. and Paris, France. The rail line between UK and the continental Europe has since had several upgrades, which will be reviewed later. On the British side two impressive high speed rail route parts on the High Speed One line were recently added to be used mainly by the super fast traffic.
Nigt at St Pacras Trains Shed in London
In the fall of the year 2007 an impressive new improved St Pancras station was opened for the use of growing international and domestic services. St Pancras acts among other connections as a terminal for international class 373 Eurostar and national High Speed One line services by Keolis new class 395 "Southeastern" trains. It will be interesting to see what else use the British will find for the St Pancras terminal with its huge capacity and excellent local Underground and bus connections. Across the street from St Pancras lies the Kings Cross station, which houseed the Eurostar trains earlier. Nearby is also the Euston station with Virgin Trains high speed connections to the north of Great Britain.
Southeastern "Javelin" class 395 unit 018 at St Pacras in London

On the French side the infrastructure has been in a good shape for almost two decades. The norm is usually 300-360 km/h (186-224 mph) for the LGVs, up from 300 km/h, which will save additional minutes, and giving competitive edge against the airlines even in the distance of 1000 km between the bigger cities, for the first time!   

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 The future of the Eurostar traffic
While the Eurostar Group has been quite succesfull in challenging the airlines for international traffic, more train capacity will have to be added due to strong demand of the Channel Tunnel traffic. The news magazines have expressed Eurostars interest in the new AGV super fast trains. However, the best seller Velaro super high speed trains of Siemens are challenging the traditional super fast trains builder Alstom on its home market as well. The most active international train builder Bombardier has also entered the arena with its Zefiro 380 (380 km/h, 236 mph) train offering.

The results of the competition were finally unveiled in Ocrtober 2010: The winner is Velaro(-Europe) of the German train building giant Siemens AG. 10 type e320 units will be added to the fleet from year 2014.

We'll see in a couple of years what other the future will bring. One is for sure: The Channel Tunnel traffic is so lucrative, that Virgin Trains, NTV, Deutshe Bahn and other possible operators would certainly wish to take a slice of the markets or even challenge the Eurostar in its current territory of operations.
The now also has more information on the Eurotunnel, the Channel Tunnel owner and operator, and in the near future on the mighty German Deutsche Bahn as well.    

   More on future Eurostars and other Channel Tunnel trains          

Created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Sanna Siissalo and John McKey.

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 Eurostar Trainsets  Technology     
Eurostar "Capitals"      

Eurostar Incidents    
Picture: the Eurostar unit 3207/3208 unboarding at Paris gare du Nord in France after dash from the British side. The travelling between these huge cities only takes 2 hours 15 minutes now on train - beating the airliners from city center to city center! Picture by Sanna Siissalo 2008. More pictures from St Pancras (British) side of the Channel to follow shortly!    

Eurostar "Capitals" is a train set of two powerful AC locomotives and two "TGV-length" units of trailers (2 x 9 trailers) (TGVs actually have a norm of 8 trailers, except for the TGV Atlantiques 10 trailers).  

Technical details  
-> Built by: Alstom 
-> Delivered to use: 1993-1995, estimated life span over 30 years
-> Number of units: 27 half sets in service currently (31 built)  
-> Unit numbers: 3201 - 3232 (each train has two units)
-> Configuration: Power Car (Bo-Bo) + 2 x 9 trailer sets + PC
-> Capacity: 794 passengers in two class configuration
-> Operated by British operator (likely to be replaced by Deutshe Bahn) , SNCF and SNCB under "Eurostar" brand
-> operations area: Around the high speed and traditional networks in Great Britain, France, Belgium and occasionally Switzerland (i.e. ski trains).
-> Unit length: 393,7 meters
-> Unit power: 
6 powered bogies
   25kV/50Hz: 12240 kW (16414 Hp),
   3000V DC:  5700 kW (7644 Hp)
   750V DC: 3400 kW (4560 Hp)
-> Power to weight ratio (Hp): 21,74  on 25 kW power source
-> 14 tricurrent versions: 25kV 50-60 Hz AC/ 3000V DC/ 750V DC
      17 quadcurrent version: 
25kV 50-60 Hz AC/ 15kV 16,7 Hz / 3000V DC/ 750V DC
-> Operational max. speed: 300 km/h  (186 mph)

-> Mass, metric tons: 753t net / 816 t gross  
-> Wheel diameter: 920 mm
-> Coupler type: Scharfenberg for theoretical coupling with other Eurostar and most other TGV-types: TGV-Atlantique, TGV-Réseau and TGV-Duplex (running in multiple is limited by the platform length 400 meters being the maximum length in most places along the high speed networks)
-> Axle weight max: 17 tons  
-> heated, airconditioned and pressure controlled environment for the passengers and train service personnel. 
-> Currently the 28 active Eurostar Capitals units are beginning their midlife ovarhauls for both engines and trailers. All units should be upgraded by year 2014.  This should also boosth the reported low availability figure of just 94% (2007) or 95% in 2008.

Easy recognition guide

  • yellow, black/dark blue and white livery, yellow on the nose (unlike any ather super high speed train)  
  • rounder nose than on TGVs, significantly narrower carbody    
  • a single train double the length of a usual TGV (18 trailers, Eurostar regional has 14,  TGV-A has 10, all other TGV-type units 8)

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Eurostar "Regional"      

The Eurostar (international / capitals) unit 3201/3202 seen here gliding through a station in Calais on the French side of the line. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.

Eurostar "Regional" is a similar train set to "Capitals" but has only 14 trailers (instead of 18).   

Technical details  
-> Builder: Alstom
-> Delivered to use: 1993-1995, estimated life span 30 years
-> Number of units: 7    
-> Unit numbers: 3301 - 3314
-> Configuration: Power Car (Bo-Bo) + 2 x 7 trailer set + PC
-> Capacity: 558 passengers in two class configuration
-> Operated by British operators, recently these unit have been on the long term lease for the SNCF due to the chronical TGV shortage at the time of the opening for the LGV-POS (late 2007) and later due to strong demand of super high speed services.
-> operations area: Around the high speed and traditional networks
-> Unit length: 318,9 meters
-> Unit power: 12200 kW (16354 Hp) on 25kV 50Hz, 6 powered bogies
-> Power to weight ratio (Hp): 23,59  on 25 kW power source
-> 7 tricurrent versions: 25kV 50-60 Hz AC, 3000V DC, 750V DC
-> Operational max. speed: 300 km/h
 (186 mph)  
-> Mass, metric tons:    t net /     t gross
-> Wheel diameter: 920 mm
-> Coupler type: Scharfenberg for coupling with other Eurostar and most other TGV-types: TGV-Atlantique, TGV-Réseau and TGV-Duplex (running in multiple is limited by the platform length 400 meters being the maximum length in most places along the high speed networks)
-> Axle weight max: 17 tons

-> heated, airconditioned and pressure controlled environment for the passengers and train service personnel  

-> No midlide overhaul expected currently

Easy recognition guide

  • yellow, black/dark blue and white livery, some locos have been painted blue earlier.  
  • rounder nose than on TGVs
  • misguidingly some units have had TGV logo on them causing a confusion by even the railroad professional journalists taking these units as TGVs.      
  • a single train 1,5 times the length of a usual TGV: Eurostar Regional has 14 trailers, Eurostar Capitals 18,  TGV-A 10, all other TGV-type units 8.
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Eurostars and other Channel Tunnel operators trains for the future      

The Eurostar unit 3001 beside the Thalys PBKA unit 4343 show two different designs for the TGV. While the Eurostars are used mainly for the Channel Tunnel traffic, the Thalyses traffic mostly north of Paris France towards Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. Below a demo train for the upcoming e320 velaro type train sets. 
Siemens Mobility demo train of Eurostar e320 on display in fornt of the London eye, U.K.

Like the majority of other super high speed rail traffic, the Eurostars have recently had steadily growing number of passengers. While the original Eurostar Capitals and Eurostar Regional units have been enough to provide capacity so far, the situation will change with fast growing numbers of passengers between London and the continental large cities. The increase has been created with the opening of the latest high speed track sections on the great Britains side, as one of the frequent travellers commented: "it's only 20 minutes (to London) once you reach the U.K. edge of the Channel tunnel". Interestingly some of the units were on lease to SNCF still in late 2008 due to similar high demand causing problems within France.     
For the next generation of Eurostars it would seem wise to increase the maximum speed to that of the Zefiro (Bombardier), AGV (Alstom) and Velaro (Siemens), that is 360 - 380 km/h (224 - 236 mph). Also destinations around the continental Europe would seem logical. A triple or quadruple electrical systems would still be needed. Much restricted British general loading gauge might be an additional nuisance causing restrictions for the comfortable dimension inside the train, if the trains are to traffic outside the one existing British high speed line. The Zefiro, Velaro, AGV or next generation TGV units might be the train of choise for any operator on the  super high speed network around the Chunnel (the Channel tunnel).
The international passenger traffic will be opened between the European Union member countries for competition in 2010. There is no exception for UK, France and Belgium to this rule. The starting of the competition might quickly bring trains from other strong British operators on the super high speed and high speed tracks. This would definitely be an attractive business area for many newcomers as well. The business seems quite lucrative for the moment if the airlines can offer their cheapest tickets at 1/2 of the price of the Eurostar...a demand to be filled sooner or later!  
Part of the expensive tickets can be explained on the expensive prices on the usage of the British High Speed One line between Channel tunnel and London as well as the Channel Tunnel slot charges; new super high speed lines need heavy investment to get everything started initially.  

 Eurostar Running on Third Rail       
Two pictures by Ken Storey of Eurostar units on the third rail section of the British railnetwork before the Eurostars moved to St Pancras station in 2007 and started using the British super high speed lines which have catenary wires to provide the electricity. Many similar systems to British 750V DC third rail can be found today on subways but the choise for today seems to be the 25KV 50Hz overhead wire. (The rusty rails in the middle of the right most rail in the left picture are probably for replacement of old rails).  
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Eurostar Incidents    
As with any large scale operation, disruptions to normal traffic patterns happen. 
 Disruption of the traffic in December 2009 due to cold and snowy conditions   
All Eurostar traffic (not Eurotunnel traffic nor Keolis 395 were severely affected) ceased a few days before Christmas on 18th of December 2009. 5 Eurostar trainsets broke down simultaneuously, 4 of those inside the warm and humid Eurotunnel. The cold weather conditions outside were blamed. The traffic was cancelled until tuesday the 22nd of December and Eurostar sincerely apologized its customers.  
At the time it was discussed at that the blowing light snow might have caused the problems. The trains use centrifuge to dry the incoming air. This method works will with rain and wet snow but NOT the light snow in the cold conditions. Similar incidents were reported have happened in February 2009, 2003, 2002 and 1995. In the U.S. similar problems have also been experienced withthe high speed Acela units, which run on the front locomotive only on the similar conditions to stop the breakdowns. To stop similar incident from happening in the future, the Eurostar would be wise to invest on trains of different technology like Bombardiers or Siemens' to broaden its operations sustainability in the severe weather conditions.

The serious fire on the northern tunnel bore on September 11th 2008  

As we have read from the news, there was a serious fire on northern Channel tunnel on September 11th in 2008 caused by an Eurotunnels (the owner of the tunnel infra) own piggy pack train carrying trucks in the tunnel. The cause was determined to be the trucks overheated brakes, which caught fire when ventilated by the tunnel air on high speed. The train had to be stopped 11,5 kilometers inside the tunnel from the French side. After series of explosions the 29 truck drivers plus 3 crew escaped throught the service tunnel between located between the main tunnels. 14 people were injured from inhaling the toxic gases. The fire lasted for 16 hours with temperatures of over 1000 degrees celcius, and the whole tunnel was closed causing chaos among the travellers.
The southern undamaged tunnel was reopened on September 13th with a limited number of only 19 Eurostars operating from London to Paris / Brussels / Disneyland Paris. With only one tunnel in use the reduced traffic schedules will be limited to minimum. With worse than 1996 fire damages expected it was estimated to take over 6 months before the northern tunnel is again in use and the traffic was finally restored to normal in March 2009.    
The tunnel fortunately has several crossovers between the northern and southern bores which helped to achieve near normal levels of traffic in case of some part is being repaired. Due to congestion the freight traffic was limited to night time only. Even in the normal traffic the freight traffic has a 125 km/h (78 mph) MINIMUM speed limit (trains travelling slower than that will have to pay for two slots intead of one, making using Eurotunnel uneconomical for slower traffic).    
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 Eurostar Train Units Roster Pictures and Stories    
Eurostar unit 3001 under the roof of Paris Gare du Nord
Picture above: Eurostar (half) unit 3001 at Paris Gare du Nord in France. Picture: Another picture of the Eurostar (half) unit 3001 at Paris Gare du Nord in France with a sister Thalys TGV type train. 
Eurostar unit 3011 at StPancras, London
Picture above: Eurostar (half) unit 3011 with 3 of its sister trains at St Pancras, London, United Kingdom.
Eurostar unit 3201 at StPancras, London
Picture: Eurostar (half) unit 3201 at Calais minutes before descending to the Channel tunnel for its undersea part of journey. 
Picture: Eurostar (half) unit 3201 on the westernmost track of St Pancras main trains shed. Notice the restaurant right next to the track, what a great place for train spotting!
Eurostar unit 3205 and 3212 at StPancras, London
Units 3205, 3212 and a third unit under the north end of the St Pancras train shed. 
Units half 3207 has just arrived to Paris Gare du Nord in France.
Eurostar Capitals unit 3214 and 3215 at St Pancras StationEurostar half unit 3221 at Paris Gare du Nord
Units 3214 and 3215 rest under the arches of St Pancras train "shed".
Picture: Eurostar unit 3221 with two unknowns sister trains at Paris end of their daily route. 
Eurostar capitals loco 3230 in Lille, France
Eurostar unit number 3230 in Lille, France in the summer of 2010. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.  
Siemens Mobility demo train of Eurostar e320 on display in fornt of the London eye, U.K.
 The demo train for the upcoming e320 Eurostar unit. This demo looks like a DB Velaro-D unit with eurostar paint on it making it appear quite different from it's German cousins. 
More pictures will follow shortly.

 Other interesting pages in the category on 
  Super Fast Trains Main Page  
  Super High Speed Trains News   
  Super High Speed Trains records Page   
  TGV & AGV page         
  AGV Page    
  Intercity Express - ICE and Velaro Page       

  Shinkansen picture & fact page    
  Watching Super Fast Train at Paris Gare du Nord      
  The SNCF TGV Roster Page     
  Tilting Trains Page   
  Pendolino special Page        
  Cisalpino (ETR470 Pendolino) story by Ilkka Siissalo in the Swiss section!    
  Sokol from Russia     

  High Speed in Russia   
  Super High Speed Efforts in the U.S.   
  Super High Speed in China   
  Maglev technology Page - levitation on the rail   

  Super High Speed Lines and Corridors...         
High Speed Services:
  Allegro - Helsinki Finland to St Petersburg Russia  
  AVE - High Speed service of Renfe Spain  
  Cisalpino - The Former Joint Venture of SBB/CFF and Trenitalia   
  FYRA - High Speed service of NS and SNCB in Benelux countries 
  Sapsan - High Speed service of RzD of Russia  
  Thalys - High Speed service from France to Benelux countries   
  TGV - High Speed service of SNCF in France          

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© Railroad Reference 2004 - 2010  -  Updated 7.11.2010  John McKey