Class 373

Trans Manche Super Train

Sadly, a large proportion of expensive rolling stock, destined for Channel Tunnel use, became redundant at a very early stage. The Nightstar project has already been mentioned: the order for this stock was placed by European Passenger Services in 1992. On 29th February 1996, the then Secretary of State for Transport, Sir George Young, announced that the consortium ''London & Continental Railways'' (L&CR) had won the bidding competition to build and run the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. L&CR was one of four large consortia which took part in the race to be involved in the project, and as part of the deal, £3000 million worth of government-owned assets would be transferred to the corporation. These included:

The EPS operation had been loss-making from the outset, but before being offered to L&CR, debts were written off. After being announced as the winner, the company also informed the Government of its proposals to perpetuate international services to and from Waterloo, after the opening of the Eurostar hub at St Pancras. Another important revelation also came to light on February 29th: there was formal confirmation that an international station would be built at Stratford. The locality's Newham Council was required to present a sound financial case supporting the Stratford International proposals: unlike Ebbsfleet, initially there was no guarantee a CTRL station would be built here. As part of the Stratford proposals, L&CR also included in its plans a direct double-track connection between the West Coast Main Line and the international station in East London. This was precisely for the ''Regional'' Eurostar operation; part of the commercial case for building Stratford International was that it would be served by the short-formed Class 373 formations. The double-track link would allow such sets, emanating from the Midlands and the North, to bypass St Pancras. With reference to the Regional Trans Manche Super Trains, seven complete sets were eventually produced (i.e. fourteen half sets), each formation incorporating fourteen passenger vehicles, as opposed to the eighteen carriages of the full length sets. To differentiate between the two formation types in terminology, the full length sets can be referred to as ''Three Capitals'' (reflecting the three capital cities they serve: London, Paris, and Brussels). Each ''Regional'' formation cost £25 million to construct, and by January 1999, Railtrack had guaranteed paths for these services. However, this year transpired to be a bad one for the Chunnel passenger operation.

Since acquiring the loss-making European Passenger Services operation in 1996, L&CR quite soon faced rising costs. As mentioned earlier, the Nightstar project had been put on hold in 1997; this had been plagued by difficulties in finding a contractor to build the required stock, delays of which had sent costs spiralling. Although GEC-Alsthom agreed to fill the breach, and construction of sleeper vehicles began, L&CR initiated a severe cost-cutting exercise. On 9th July 1999, the company formally announced the cancellation of ''Nightstar'' and the Regional Eurostar projects – even the existing daytime services to and from Waterloo International were not carrying the forecasted passenger numbers. As a result, newly-completed sleeper carriages were delivered new from the manufacturer to MOD Kineton, Warwickshire, for secure storage as obsolete rolling stock. In addition to this, the seven EPS-owned Class 92 electric locomotives went into store at Crewe Electric Depot, and the Regional Eurostar sets were put into storage at North Pole Depot.

9th February 1994

Having been hauled onto the link-span from one of the six sidings aboard the Train Ferry "Nord Pas de Calais" by No. 09016, Class 373 Power Car No. 3106 is about to be propelled back into another siding to attach more vehicles. © David Morgan

9th February 1994

Ex-works Class 373 Power Car Nos. 3105 & 3106, plus an unidentified motor coach, being hauled across the link-span having arrived from GEC Alsthom at Belfort via the Train Ferry "Nord Pas de Calais". © David Morgan

9th February 1994

Class 373 Power Car Nos. 3105 & 3106 soak up the afternoon sun in the Admiralty Pier Sidings whilst en route between the GEC Alsthom factories at Belfort and Washwood Heath. These were the first Power Cars to be moved by rail from Dover and they were conveyed later in the evening on a special freight train running under exceptional load conditions. © David Morgan