British Rail Class 373

British Rail Class 373

Infobox EMU
name = British Rail Class 373 "Eurostar"

imagesize = 300px
caption =
background = #FFCF81
Manufacturer = GEC-Alsthom
Family = TGV
Operator = Eurostar
Formation = 20 cars (Three Capitals)
16 cars (North of London)
Built = 31 trainsets (Three Capitals)
7 trainsets (North of London)
CarBody = Steel
InService = 1993 -
Weight = 752 t (Three Capitals, empty)
815 t (Three Capitals, loaded)
665 t (North of London)
CarLength = 18.7 m
CarWidth = 2.81 m
Capacity = 750 seats (Three Capitals)
558 seats (North of London)
MaxSpeed = 334.7 km/h (Record)
300 km/h (Service)
Power = 12.2 MW (25 kV)
5.7 MW (3000 V)
3.4 MW (675/750 V)
Gauge = Standard gauge - 4 ft 8½ (1,435 mm)
Voltage = 25 kV AC
675/750 V DC
3000 V DC "1500 V DC"

The British Rail Class 373 or TGV-TMST train is an electric multiple unit that operates Eurostar's high-speed rail service between Britain, France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. Part of the TGV family, it has a smaller cross-section to fit within the constrictive British loading gauge, was originally able to operate on the UK third rail network, and has extensive fireproofing in case of fire in the tunnel. This is both the longest—convert|394|m|ft—and fastest train in regular UK passenger service.

Known as the "TransManche Super Train" (Cross-channel Super Train) during development up until start of service in 1993, the train is designated Class 373 under the British TOPS classification system and as series 373000 TGV in France. It was built by GEC-Alsthom (now Alstom) at its sites in La Rochelle (France), Belfort (France) and Washwood Heath (UK).

Types and ownership

Two types were constructed:
* Thirty-one "Three Capitals" sets consisting of two power cars and 18 carriages, including two with powered bogies. These trains are 394 metres long and can carry 750 passengers; 206 in first class, 544 in standard class. [cite web |url= |title=Eurostar seating plan | |accessdate=2007-04-30]
* Seven shorter "North of London" trains which have 14 carriages and are 320 metres in length. These still include two carriages with powered bogies, resulting in a higher power-to-weight-ratio. These sets have a capacity of 558 seats; 114 in first class, 444 in standard class). These were designed to operate the proposed Regional Eurostar services.

Thirty-eight full sets were ordered by the railway companies involved: 16 by SNCF; four by NMBS/SNCB; and 18 by British Rail, of which seven were North of London sets. Upon privatisation of British Rail by the UK Government, the sets were bought by London and Continental Railways, which named the subsidiary Eurostar (U.K.) Ltd., now managed by a consortium made up of the National Express Group (40%), SNCF (35%), SNCB (15%) and British Airways (10%).

The first Eurostar set was built at Belfort in 1992. Identified as "PS1" ("Pre-Series 1"), 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 the UK for third-rail DC tests, arriving on 20 June 1992.

One extra power car, numbered 3999, was built as a spare for use in the event of another power car being damaged or destroyed. This was required for a couple of years, when 3999 was renumbered and replaced another power car whilst it underwent rebuilding at Le Landy. It is usually held at Temple Mills depot in London.



The bulk of the fleet's operations are on Eurostar's core routes from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels-South railway station ( _fr. Bruxelles-Midi; _nl. Brussel-Zuid or "Zuidstation"). A daily return service operates between London and Disneyland Paris. At particular times of the year, sets equipped for operation on French "lignes classiques" (classic lines) operate to Avignon Centre (summer only) or on the "ski-train" services to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (winter time only).

The trains can operate at up to 300 km/h (186 mph) on high-speed lines and 160 km/h (100 mph) in the Channel Tunnel. Since there is an automatic application of the brakes if the speed exceeds 315 km/h, [TGVWeb, [ The TGV Signaling System] .] or 160 km/h when the pantograph is in the tunnel setting, the target speed is in fact 297 and 157 km/h respectivelyFact|date=February 2008. Speeds with in the Channel Tunnel are dictated by air-resistance, energy (heat) dissipation and the need to fit in with other train services operating at slower speeds.


Three of the Three Capitals sets owned by SNCF are in French domestic use on the TGV network, mainly operating services between Paris and Lille and currently carry a variation on the standard silver and blue TGV livery. In 2007, SNCF enhanced their fleet by leasing six and a half of the seven redundant North of London sets, with one half-set remaining with Eurostar. The North of London sets were originally intended to provide direct Regional Eurostar services from Continental Europe to and from UK cities north of London, using the West Coast Main Line and the East Coast Main Line. These never came to fruition because of long proposed journey times, and the proliferation of budget airlines offering lower fares.


Five of the North of London sets were leased to GNER in 2001 to provide additional capacity on its routes from London King's Cross. The units were utilised on its "White Rose" titled services to York, and later to Leeds. These were stripped of their Eurostar markings, two sporting a mostly-white livery, with three sets in the pool receiving full-length GNER-style deep-navy vinyl wraps. On rare occasions sets were formed of both a GNER and unbranded Eurostar halfset. The lease ended in December 2005, following which they were returned to Eurostar. Because the pantographs on these trains are designed for high speed line use, where the overhead power cables are fiercely sprung, in comparison to the loosely sprung wiring on the ECML, they were limited to only 110mph, to avoid causing overhead power cable problems.

Another reason for removing Class 373s from London-Leeds services was the (comparatively) long time taken for the doors to be opened and closed (because of the lengthy 'door closing' warning horn and the slow speed of the mechanism). The Mark 4 plug doors opening and closing sequence is much quicker, making them far more suitable for services with more frequent stops (as many London-Leeds trains stop at a lot of the intermediate stations such as Grantham, Newark and Retford as well as the principal ones of Doncaster and Peterborough).


Maintenance of the fleet is carried out at depots close to the three capital cities. With the opening of High Speed 1 on 14 November 2007, the depot for London was changed from North Pole International depot adjacent to the Great Western Main Line in west London, to Temple Mills depot near Stratford International in east London. This is where the unused North of London sets and spare power car are stored. In France the trains are maintained at Le Landy depot in northern Paris, and in Belgium at Brussels Forest depot.

The 27 sets operating on Eurostar's routes were refurbished in 2004-5 with a new interior, designed by Philippe Starck. The grey-yellow look (in Standard class) and the grey-red look (in First class) have been replaced with a more grey-brown look in Standard, and a grey-burnt orange in First class.

Fleet details

Each power car has a four-digit number starting with "3" (3xxx). This designates the train as a Mark 3 TGV (Mark 2 being TGV Atlantique, and Mark 1 being the original Paris-Sud-Est units). The second digit of denotes the country of ownership:
*30xx UK
*31xx Belgium
*32xx France
*33xx Regional Eurostar

Each half-set is numbered separately.

# including power car.
# Avignon and Alps ski-train services are worked by SNCF quadricurrent-capable sets.
# North of London units transferred to SNCF from 2007.Verify source|date=July 2007

Each full trainset is formed of two power cars and eighteen coaches, ordered as shown in the table below:

Technical details


When built, all train sets were tri-voltage being able to operate on 25 kV, 50 Hz AC (LGVs, Eurotunnel, High Speed 1, UK overhead electrified lines) and 3 kV DC (Belgian "lignes classiques") using pantographs, as well as 750 V DC using "shoes" (UK third rail network). However following the opening of High Speed 1, 25 kV is available throughout the core network between London and Paris / Brussels and the third rail "shoes" are redundant and have been removed; it is likely that the pickup system will also be removed as has happened on domestically-used French sets. The links to the new London Depot facilities at Temple Mills and to potential services through to the East and West-Coast Main Lines are 25 kV overhead too. Five of the SNCF-owned sets are quadri-voltage, being able to operate on 1500 V DC (French "lignes classiques") in the south of France; these sets are used for the Avignon and Ski services.

In addition to the four powered axles in each power car—driven by British-designed asynchronous traction motors—one bogie in the first and last passenger carriages are powered, as is the case with the original TGV PSE sets. Each trainset therefore has twelve powered axles to haul 18 carriages, compared to the eight axles and eight passenger carriages of a TGV Reseau. Drawing up to 12 MW of power, the train has the lowest power-to-weight ratio of any of the TGV family.

The train has to be able to cope with five different standards of overhead catenary: regular domestic-height catenary in Belgium, in France and in the UK. Lower, but fixed-height catenary as found on the LGV lines and slightly higher catenary used through the Channel Tunnel. The Eurotunnel catenary is much higher as the tunnel is able to transport double-deck car-carrying trains and roofed heavy goods vehicle trains. The driver of the train is required to lower the pantographs as they exit one system and raise them again when entering the new system.

ignalling systems

The trains must be fitted with the signalling systems used in all regions of operation, leading to a cluttered control desk in the driver's cab. These include
* AWS, the British signalling system (induction based), used in the Ashford International area
* TPWS, the warning system which supplements AWS, used in the Ashford International area
* TVM (Transmission Voie-Machine), used on "lignes à grande vitesse", on the Eurotunnel tracks, and on High Speed 1.
* KVB, the system used between Paris Gare du Nord and the LGV Nord, on other French "lignes classiques" and HS1-connected throat around St. Pancras. The system is electro-mechanical with fixed radio beacons.
* TBL, the Belgian signalling system (electro-mechanical), used between Brussels-South and HSL 1

At high speed, the driver is considered to be unable to see line side signals reliably and to be able to respond accordingly. With the TVM signalling used on the high-speed lines, the target speed for the end of the current block is displayed, along with a flashing indication for the next block if it is a different speed. In addition, auxiliary signalling information is transmitted, including the location of neutral sections in the overhead supply and pantograph adjustment zones. This extra information is displayed in cab as well as by the line side. The operation of a Eurostar's circuit breakers over the neutral sections is handled automatically on the TVM-signalled lines only, but the pantograph adjustments must always be performed by the driver.

Bogies and couplings

The trains were designed with Channel Tunnel safety in mind, and consist of two independent "half-sets", each with its own power car. Most of the trailers rest on Jacobs bogies which are shared between adjacent carriages, supporting both of them. However, the power cars at each end of the train and the two central trailers (coaches 9 and 10 in a full-length set) rest on their own bogies. Across the non-shared bogies, the set is coupled together using a Scharfenberg coupler, providing three points for easy separation in the event of an emergency in the Channel Tunnel. The electrical supply cables between a power-car and the first carriage are designed to break apart during an emergency separation of the train. In the event of a serious fire on board while travelling through the Tunnel, the passengers would be transferred into the undamaged half of the train, which would then be uncoupled from the damaged half and driven out of the tunnel to safety. If the undamaged part is the rear half of the train, this would be driven by the Chef du Train who is a fully authorised driver and occupies the rear driving cab while the train travels through the tunnel for this purpose.

The articulated design is advantageous during a derailment as the passenger carriages will tend to stay aligned in the event of a derailment. On non-articulated [most] trains, by contrast, couplings may split and the carriages may jack-knife. A disadvantage of articulation is that it is difficult to remove individual carriages for maintenance. While the power cars can be separated from trains via standard uncoupling procedures, specialised depot equipment is needed to split carriages by lifting the entire train at once. Once uncoupled, one of the carriage ends is left without a bogie at the split, so a bogie frame is required to support it.

Braking systems

The train has three braking systems:
*The twelve motors can provide rheostatic braking.
*All axles have four disc brakes on them.
*Both power cars have wheel brakes capable of operating directly on the wheels.The combined effect of the three braking systems can bring a train travelling at 300 km/h to a complete standstill in 65 seconds, during which time the train covers about 3.5 km.


In order to eliminate the hypnotic effect of driving through a tunnel at speed for 21 minutes ("tunnel vision"), the power cars have only a very small windshield/screen when compared to other high-speed trains and TGV models.

Record runs

On 30 July 2003, on the opening press run of High Speed 1 section 1, Eurostar set 3313/14 set a new British rail speed record of 334.7 km/h (208mph), breaking the previous-held record of at 162.2mph (259.5 km/h) set by an Advanced Passenger Train on 20 December 1979.

On 16 May 2006 a Eurostar set a new record for the longest non-stop high speed journey, when set 3209/10 made the 1421km journey from London to Cannes in 7 hours 25 minutes. This was a result of Eurostar's partnership with the Da Vinci Code film. The train carried stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and director Ron Howard, who had jointly named the train "The Da Vinci Code" prior to departing London on its way to the film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

On 4 September 2007 the first revenue Eurostar train to use the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link to St Pancras railway station sets a new speed record for rail travel between London and Paris. The first train left Paris at 9:44AM BST and arrived at St. Pancras two hours, three minutes and 39 seconds later. Officials aboard the inaugural train recorded speeds up to 202 mph (325 km/h) in France and 195 mph (314 km/h) in Britain. [ (BBC)] [cite news| url=| title=Eurostar sets Paris-London record| publisher=BBC News| date=2007-09-04| accessdate=2007-09-04|]

At Exhibitions

On several occasions, Eurostar power cars and sets have appeared at special events:

* Rotterdam, 6 April 1996, Full Set 3309/3310.
* Brussels South, Belgium's "Travelling Day": May 1998, Half-set 3305.
* Berlin Grunewald, Eurailspeed 1998, 3303/3304 half-set(s).
* Madrid Chamartín, Eurailspeed 2002, power car 3212 + trailers.
* York NRM, Railfest 200 , 2004, power car 3313 + Eurostar simulator.
* A barge on the River Thames, London, 16 November 2004, [Eurostar Press Release, [ "Eurostar Floats!"] ] power car specially painted by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell.

10th birthday celebrations

The River Thames event surrounded celebrating the 10th anniversary of Eurostar operations. The Eurostar power car was "painted" using vinyl decals at the North Pole depot under the supervision of the artists before travelling to Tilbury to be loaded on to a barge. Named "Language of Places on Eurostar" by Langlands and Bell, the artwork piece consisted of the three-letter "destination codes for all the places Eurostar goes to orconnects to". [2007-08-10, Private email reply from Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell] Floating up the Thames, the voyage passed under Tower Bridge, alongside the House of Parliament and was eventually moored for a period against HMS Belfast. The event was delayed 24hours following a fatal train crash on the day that the publicity stunt had originally been due to take place.
* [ of Eurostar in front of Tower Bridge]
* [ Short write-up of the journey] , with three pictures.


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