The first member of the Class 92 fleet, No. 92001, was completed in August 1993 and commenced static tests in that month at Brush Traction's Falcon Works, Loughborough. However, No. 92002 "H. G. Wells" was in fact the first class member to run over BR metals, when it was taken from Brush Traction to the Railway Technical Centre, Derby, on the evening of 10th December 1993. This was for formal testing by BR, and one of the CM&EE's "Dutch" liveried Class 31 diesels, No. 31145, hauled the Class 92 for the move. The testing was envisaged to take little more than a week, after which No. 92002 would return to Brush Traction for modifications before being dispatched to Czechoslovakia and Austria - in the company of No. 92001 - for endurance trials.
The first locomotive to be received by EPS was No. 92020 "Milton", which was handed over at a formal ceremony at the then new Waterloo International terminal on 1st February 1995. The locomotive had been dragged "dead" from North Pole Depot, the "Eurostar" base of EPS, by Class 47 No. 47385, which hauled No. 92020 into platform No. 24. Class 73 No. 73130 then arrived to haul No. 92020 out of the platform prior to the ceremony, to allow No. 47385 to leave, after which the electric was again pushed into the same platform. As far as EPS operation was concerned, the Class 92 fleet's range would be Glasgow - Kensington Olympia - Waterloo International - Calais Ville. RfD and SNCF examples started to be delivered during the same year.
Officially, all Class 92 locomotives were allocated to "Crewe International Electric Depot". This was not a purpose-built facility for the Chunnel project, but was an existing depot which had been commissioned in the early 1960s during the first part of the WCML electrification. Completion of the whole order was to come in 1996: with a top speed of 87.5 MPH, a maximum rating of 5,000 kW (6,700 HP) and most examples bearing the names of famous composers and writers, the class was, sadly, in for a bumpy ride on introduction to service.
BR's TrainLoad business sectors were privatised on 24th February 1996 in their ''Mainline'', ''Transrail'' and ''Loadhaul'' shadow franchise forms, when they were purchased by American-based "Wisconsin Central Railway''. Initially known as "North & South Railways" on this side of the "Pond", the operation was soon re-branded as "English, Welsh & Scottish Railway" (EWS). RfD remained part of the British Rail Board during the Class 92 deliveries, but was eventually purchased by EWS on 22nd November 1997, which gave the latter a complete monopoly in UK Chunnel freight operation. The company had acquired the only BR freight locomotive authorised for Chunnel operation - the Class 92 - and also took over the yard at Dollands Moor, a compulsory stop for all continental freight.
As part of the privatisation process, BR's infrastructure came under a newly-formed body from 1st April 1994 called "Railtrack". Floated on the London Stock Exchange on 20th May 1996, Railtrack very soon began implementing draconian rules and regulations concerning the level of interference - however minimal - between motive power and signalling equipment. In light of the Class 92's high electrical power rating, the type was barred from its intended Wembley to Dollands Moor route via Redhill - only were the locomotives permitted over this line (which had been specifically electrified in 1994 for this purpose) if being dragged dead by a diesel. It became nigh on impossible for the Class 92 to adhere to most of the new signalling interference criteria laid down by Railtrack, which led to the bizarre situation of the type being banned from operating over the section of line which gave access to its home depot at Crewe. As a result, Class 92 locomotives had to be dragged there from as far away as Wembley. Indeed, as a result of Railtrack's drastic policy, EWS initially looked at acquiring the RfD business sector without the Class 92 fleet; a senior EWS official was allegedly quoted as saying that their only practical use was as "battery chicken ranches"!
Aside from the woes imposed by Railtrack, there were yet more declining fortunes on the horizon for the Class 92. The "Nightstar" sleeper project had been repeatedly delayed as a result of overrunning costs and difficulty in finding a contractor to build the carriages. A reluctant GEC-Alsthom finally stepped into the breach and assembly of Nightstar stock began, but "London & Continental Railways" (the privatised company which had assumed the EPS operation) decided to abandon the project on costs grounds, official cancellation coming on 9th July 1999. Now the seven EPS Class 92 locomotives were left without any work and, in the following year, these examples were offered for sale. Unfortunately, no buyer was found, any potential group probably being deterred by the highly complex electrical systems and the class' inability to meet existing European safety criteria. Subsequently, these examples - Nos. 92020, 92021, 92032, 92040, 92044, 92045 and 92046 - went into store at Crewe, their home depot, in April 2001.
During February 2007, there was light at the end of the tunnel for five members of the stored EPS fleet. In this month, Chunnel operating body ''Eurotunnel'' purchased EPS locomotive Nos. 92020, 92021, 92032, 92040 and 92044 for a cumulative total of £2 million. This indeed proved to be quite a steal, for in nominal terms, the five together cost £15,000,000 to construct in 1993, which equates to some £21,120,000 by 2006 prices. However, these locomotives were by no means ''ready-to-run'', and their considerable time in storage required each example to be fully overhauled before use. Their condition, combined with EPS' desire to relinquish their responsibilities with them, would appear to be reflected in the final asking price. Eurotunnel undertook the overhaul task in conjunction with the original manufacturer, Brush Traction Ltd, on the French side of the operation at Coquelles. As far as the British railway network was concerned, it was intended that the revived Class 92s would reach only as far as the Cheriton Terminal once in service. Their acquisition formed the beginnings of Eurotunnel's venture into open access freight operation, which at the time revolved around breaking onto the scene on the continent. Any venture into the British market was being considered as having future potential.
|Number||Name||Original Operator||Latest Operator|
|92031||The Institute of Logistics & Transport**||RfD||DB|