British Rail Class 373

British Rail Class 373
Eurostar e300

373 218 leaving Chambéry in Savoie, France

The interior of a Class 373
In service 1993 - present (Test)
14 November 1994 - present (Passenger Services)
Manufacturer GEC-Alsthom, BN
Family name TGV
Constructed 1992 - 1996
Number built 31 trainsets (Three Capitals)
7 trainsets (North of London)
Formation 20 cars (Three Capitals):
16 cars (North of London):
Capacity 750 seats (Three Capitals)
558 seats (North of London)
Operator(s) Eurostar
Depot(s) Temple Mills
North Pole International (former)[2]
Car body construction Steel
Train length 387 m
Car length 18.7 m (61 ft 4 in) (middle)[3]
22.15 m (72 ft 8 in) (driving)
21.84 m (71 ft 8 in) (powered middle)
Width 2.81 m (9 ft 3 in)
Maximum speed 300 km/h (186 mph) (Service)
334.7 km/h (208.0 mph) (Record)
Weight 752 t (740 long tons; 829 short tons) (Three Capitals, empty)
815 t (802 long tons; 898 short tons) (Three Capitals, loaded)
665 t (654 long tons; 733 short tons) (North of London)
Power output 12.2 MW (16,400 hp) (25 kV)
5.7 MW (7,600 hp) (3000 V)[4]
3.4 MW (4,600 hp) (750 V)[4]
Tractive Effort:
410 kN (92,000 lbf) Starting @ 25 kV
350 kN (79,000 lbf) Starting @ 1.5 kV & 750 V
220 kN (49,000 lbf) Continuous @200 km/h (124 mph) & 25 kV[4]
Electric system(s) Overhead lines
25 kV 50 Hz AC
3000 V DC, 1500 V DC
Third rail
750 V DC (No longer used)
Current collection method Pantograph
Contact shoe (removed)
UIC classification Bo'Bo'+Bo'2'2'2'2'2'2'2'2'2'+2'2'2'2'2'2'2'2'2'Bo'+Bo'Bo'
Coupling system Scharfenberg
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 373 or TGV TMST train is an electric multiple unit that operates Eurostar's inter-city 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 the smaller loading gauge in Britain, it was originally able to operate on the UK third rail network, and it has extensive fireproofing in case of fire in the tunnel. It is both the second longest—387 metres (1,270 ft)—and second fastest train in regular UK passenger service, operating at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph). It is beaten in both aspects by the British Rail Class 374, which is 400 metres (1,300 ft) long, even though it has 2 cars fewer, and has a top speed of 320 kilometres per hour (199 mph),[5] though this is never achieved on HS1 in Britain.

Known as the TransManche Super Train (Cross-channel Super Train) during development until start of service in 1993, the train is designated Class 373 under the British TOPS classification system and series 373000 TGV in France. It was built by the French company GEC-Alsthom at its sites in La Rochelle (France), Belfort (France) and Washwood Heath (Britain) and by Brugeoise et Nivelles (BN, now part of Bombardier Transportation)[6] in Brugge.

Since the delivery of new Class 374 e320 units from Siemens in 2014, refurbished examples of the Class 373 or TGV-TMST sets have been officially dubbed e300 by Eurostar to distinguish them from the new Velaro fleet.[7]

Development and construction

Two types were constructed:

The sets were ordered by the railway companies involved: 16 by SNCF, four by NMBS/SNCB, and 18 by British Rail, of which seven were the North of London sets. Upon the privatisation of British Rail, the BR sets were bought by London and Continental Railways, which named its subsidiary Eurostar (UK) Limited,[9] now managed by SNCF (55%), LCR (40%) and SNCB (5%).[10]

The first set was built at Belfort in 1992.[11] Identified as "PS1" (Pre-Series 1), it was formed of two power cars and seven coaches, and was delivered for test running in January 1993. Its first powered runs were between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, and it was transferred to the UK for third-rail DC tests in June 1993. Full-length pre-series train PS2 was completed in May 1993.

An extra power car, numbered 3999, was built as a spare. 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 was overhauled and renumbered 3204 in 2016.[12]

Third rail test train

To test the third rail shoes needed on the Southern Region lines in Great Britain, an eight-vehicle locomotive-hauled train was used in early 1994, consisting of a Class 73 locomotive, a converted Class 33 locomotive acting as a Driving Brake Van (classified NZ under TOPS), and six carriages from Class 438 (4TC) multiple units 8007, 8023 and 8028

Mid-life update

The original Standard Class interior of a Class 373

The 27 sets still operating on Eurostar were refurbished in 2004/05 with a new interior, designed by Philippe Starck.[13][14] 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.

In 2008, Eurostar announced that it was beginning the process to institute a mid-life update, which will not include units used exclusively in France by SNCF.[15] As a part of the update process, the Italian company Pininfarina has been contracted to redesign the interiors;[16] the first refurbished Eurostar was not originally due in service until 2012.[17] The refurbishment could also include an engine maintenance and a new livery. Eurostar later planned for the process to be complete by 2014, allowing the fleet to remain in service beyond 2020,[18] but following additional delays the first refurbished train was not completed until July 2015.[19][20]


Maintenance 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.[21] In France the trains are maintained at Le Landy depot in northern Paris, and in Belgium at Brussels Forest/Vorst depot.

Removal from service

In September 2016 Eurostar announced that they were to scrap the first of the trains after 22 years of service.[22] However, in October 2016, Eurostar has reveled that they have plans to retain at least 8 Class 373s for the South of France and French Alps Routes.

Current operators


A pair of Class 373s in the standard Eurostar livery at the former Waterloo International
Main article: Eurostar

The bulk of operations are on Eurostar's core routes from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels South (French: Bruxelles-Midi; Dutch: Brussel-Zuid).[23][24] A daily return service operates between London and Disneyland Paris. In summer, sets equipped for operation on French lignes classiques (classic lines) operate to Avignon Centre,[25] in winter on "ski-train" services to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.[26]

The trains can operate at up to 300 km/h (186 mph) on high-speed lines and 160 km/h (99 mph) in the Channel Tunnel; there is an automatic application of the brakes if the speed exceeds 315 km/h (196 mph),[27] or 170 km/h (106 mph) when the pantograph is in the tunnel setting. Speeds within the Channel Tunnel are dictated by air resistance, energy (heat) dissipation and the need to fit in with other train services operating at lower speeds.[28] In October 2010, Eurostar ordered 10 Class 374 "Eurostar e320" trainsets from Siemens to operate new routes and on existing routes alongside the 373 fleet.

In 2016, Eurostar announced that it would retain a total of eight Class 373s once the full fleet of Class 374s enters service, with the remainder planned to be sent for scrap.[29]

Former operators


3302 at King's Cross in 2004

Five of the North of London sets were leased to GNER in 2000 to operate services from London King's Cross to York and later Leeds under the White Rose brand.[30] Two operated in debranded Eurostar livery, while three sets were covered in GNER deep-navy vinyl wraps. On rare occasions sets were formed of a GNER and an unbranded Eurostar halfset. The lease concluded in December 2005 and they were returned to Eurostar. The doors of the first and last coach were locked out of use, as the units were too long for intermediate station platforms; use of the coaches was permitted.[31]

Due to limitations in the power supply on the Hertford Loop Line, only one set was permitted to operate there at a time.[32] They were restricted to run between King's Cross, York and Leeds because of gauging on the bridges approaching Newcastle. They were not permitted to operate to Bradford Forster Square because the electrical infrastructure past Leeds was insufficient. Manually locked selective door opening was used at shorter platforms. At the following locations on the ECML they are restricted to 110 mph (177 km/h), shown with use of blue "TGV" signs next to the tracks, or required to only use a single pantograph: (i) The Down Fast line between 59m 10ch and 59m 30ch (Huntingdon North Jn), (ii) between Grantham (105m 77ch) and Shaftholme Jn (160m 00ch Down/160m 20ch Up) and (iii) between Colton Jn (182m 75ch) and York.


Class 373 in altered SNCF livery at Haute-Picardie station
Main article: SNCF

Three of the Three Capitals sets owned by SNCF were in French domestic use on the TGV network, mainly between Paris and Lille in a variation on the standard silver and blue TGV livery. The sets were built to the same specification as the rest of the fleet, which saw them initially used on international services as well as French domestic routes. Later, the third rail pick up shoes and yellow front warning panels were removed.[33] In 2007, SNCF enhanced the 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 intended to provide Regional Eurostar services from Continental Europe to and from north of London, using the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines. These never came to fruition because of long proposed journey times and the proliferation of budget airlines offering lower fares. There were also issues with the relatively crude design of British Rail overhead lines and the logistics of getting the trains across London. SNCF's lease of the sets was scheduled to last until 2011, with an option for a further two years.[34]

In October 2014, the three Three Capitals sets were removed from service and stored, having been replaced on the Paris-Lille service by TGV Duplex units. They were to be sent for scrap, owing to them not having been refurbished since they entered service.[35] The remaining North of London sets were due to be withdrawn by December 2014 and returned to Eurostar.[36]

Fleet details

Eurostar trains in the renovated train shed at St Pancras International
Units 3215/16 entering Chambéry, in the French Alps, during winter

Each power car has a four-digit number starting with "3" (3xxx). This designates the train as a Mark 3 TGV (Mark 1 being SNCF TGV Sud-Est; Mark 2 being SNCF TGV Atlantique). The second digit denotes the country of ownership:

Each half-set is numbered separately:

Class No. built Unit numbers Cars per half-set[e 1] Description Operators Current units Services operated
Class 373/1 22 3001–3022 10 BR sets Eurostar 3001–3004 3007–3022 London-Paris,
London-Avignon,[e 2]
London-Alps[e 2]
8 3101–3108 10 NMBS sets 3101–3108
32 3201–3232 10 SNCF sets 3201/02/05-24/29–32
SNCF 3203/04/25/26/27/28
Class 373/2 14 3301–3314 8 BR's NoL sets Eurostar 3301–7, 9-14 Power car of 3308 on display at the National Railway Museum, York.[37] Others on hire to SNCF [38]
Spare 1 3999 1 Eurostar 3999 Stored at North Pole & later Temple Mills Depots as spare powercar, periodically being used to cover when others were unavailable, overhauled & placed in service in 2016 as 3204[12]
  1. including power car.
  2. 1 2 Avignon and Alps ski-train services are worked by SNCF quad-voltage sets.

Each set is formed of two power cars and 18 coaches:

Vehicle numbers Coach Description Seating
1st 2nd Toilets Baby changing
Power car
1 Standard class - 48 1 1
2 Standard class - 56 1 -
3 Standard class - 56 2 -
4 Standard class - 56 1 -
5 Standard class - 56 2 -
6 Bar-Buffet - - - -
7 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
8 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
9 Standard Premier/Business Premier 25 - 1(D) -
10 Standard Premier/Business Premier 25 - 1(D) -
11 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
12 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
13 Bar-Buffet - - - -
14 Standard class - 56 2 -
15 Standard class - 56 1 -
16 Standard class - 56 2 -
17 Standard class - 56 1 -
18 Standard class - 48 1 1
Power car

North of London sets are formed of two power cars and 14 coaches:

Vehicle numbers Coach Description Seating
1st 2nd Toilets Baby changing
Power car
1 Standard class - 48 1 1
2 Standard class - 58 1 -
3 Standard class - 58 2 -
4 Standard class - 58 1 -
5 Bar-Buffet - - - -
6 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
7 Standard Premier/Business Premier 26 - 1(D) -
8 Standard Premier/Business Premier 26 - 1(D) -
9 Standard Premier/Business Premier 39 - 1 -
10 Bar-Buffet - - - -
11 Standard class - 58 2 -
12 Standard class - 58 1 -
13 Standard class - 58 2 -
14 Standard class - 48 1 1
Power car

Technical details


All train sets were built as tri-voltage, able to operate on 25 kV 50 Hz AC (LGVs, Eurotunnel, High Speed 1, UK overhead electrified lines) and 3 kV DC (Belgian classic lines) using pantographs, and 750 V DC (UK third rail network) using third-rail pickup shoes. The shoes were retracted when operating from overhead power and prototypes were used for testing.[39] After the opening of High Speed 1, overhead electrification is used throughout and the third rail shoes were removed. Five of the SNCF-owned sets are quadri-voltage, able to operate from 1,500 V DC (French lignes classiques) in the south of France, used on London–Avignon and ski services.

A Class 373 passes through Herne Hill; until 2007, Eurostar ran its services to London Waterloo, necessitating the use of the third rail network in Southern England

British-designed asynchronous traction motors are used. There are four powered axles in each power car and two powered axles in the outer bogie of the adjacent passenger carriage (a layout used on the original SNCF TGV Sud-Est (PSE) sets) giving 12 powered axles. Each set draws up to 16MW with 12 MW (16,000 hp) of traction power, but the lowest power-to-weight ratio in the TGV family.

The class uses five different standards of overhead: domestic catenary in each of Belgium, France and the United Kingdom; fixed-height catenary on LGV lines; and taller catenary in the Channel Tunnel, designed to accommodate double-deck car-carrying trains and roll-on roll-off heavy goods vehicle trains. The driver must lower and then raise the pantograph during the transition between catenary systems.

Signalling systems

The class have multiple signalling systems, leading to a cluttered control desk. These include

At high speed, the driver cannot see lineside signals reliably. With the TVM signalling used on the high-speed lines, the target speed for the end of the current block is displayed with a flashing indication for the next block if it is a different speed. Auxiliary signalling information, including the location of neutral sections in the overhead supply and pantograph adjustment zones, is displayed in cab and by the lineside. The operation of circuit breakers over neutral sections is handled automatically on TVM-signalled lines only, and pantograph adjustments must always be performed by the driver.

Bogies and couplings

The class was designed to meet Channel Tunnel safety regulations, and consists of two independent half-sets, each with its own power car. Most of the trailers rest on Jacobs bogies shared between adjacent carriages, supporting both of them, with the cars next to the power cars and the two central cars (coaches 9 and 10 in a full-length set) not articulated. Non-shared bogies are coupled with Scharfenberg couplers, providing three points for 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. In the event of a serious fire in 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.[40] 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 in the tunnel for this purpose.[41] Due to limitations on driving hours, the driver and Chef du Train exchange roles for the return journey.

The articulated design is advantageous during a derailment as the carriages will tend to stay aligned. On non-articulated trains couplings may break and the carriages may jackknife. A disadvantage of articulation is that it is difficult to remove individual carriages for maintenance. While the power cars can be uncoupled, 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 class has three braking systems:

A train travelling at 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph) can be brought to stand in 65 seconds, during which time it covers about 2.7 km (1.7 miles)


To combat the hypnotic effect of driving through a tunnel at speed for 20 minutes, the power cars have a very small windscreen when compared to other high-speed trains and TGVs.[42][43][44]

Significant events

Accidents and incidents

Further information: TGV accidents

On 5 June 2000, a set from Paris to London derailed on the LGV Nord near Arras in France at 290 km/h (180 mph). Fourteen people were treated for light injuries or shock, with no major injures or fatalities. The articulated nature was credited with maintaining stability during the incident and the train stayed upright.[45][46] After investigation, the incident was blamed on a component of the transmission between the motors and axles coming loose. To reduce the unsprung mass, TGV trains have the motors attached to the train rather than the bogies. In order for the train to be able to go around curves a sliding "tripod" assembly is used, which became dislodged.

There have been several minor incidents. In October 1994, there were teething problems relating to the start of operations. The first preview train, carrying 400 members of the press and media, was delayed for two hours owing to technical issues.[47][46][48][49] On 29 May 2002 a set was sent towards Victoria instead of London Waterloo, causing it to arrive 25 minutes late. The signalling error that led to the incorrect routeing was stated to have caused "no risk" as a result.[50]

During the night of 18–19 December 2009, there was heavy snow causing widespread disruption to roads, railways and airports across northern Europe. Five trains failed in the Channel Tunnel because snow in the engine compartment was melting due to the warmer temperatures in the tunnel. The resulting water caused electrical and control system faults. Eurostar commissioned an independent report to evaluate what went wrong and how future events could be prevented or better managed.[51] The report's recommendations included:

The majority of the recommendations were implemented by 23 October 2012.

Record runs

On 30 July 2003, on the opening press run of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Section 1, set 3313/14 set a new British rail speed record of 334.7 kilometres per hour (208.0 mph), breaking the previous record of 261.0 kilometres per hour (162.2 mph) set by an Advanced Passenger Train on 20 December 1979.[52][53][13]

On 16 May 2006 set 3209/10 created a record for the longest non-stop high-speed journey when it made the 1,421-kilometre (883 mi) journey from London to Cannes in 7 hours 25 minutes.[54] This was a result of Eurostar's partnership with the Da Vinci Code film. The train carried actors Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou and director Ron Howard, who had jointly named the train The Da Vinci Code prior to departing for the film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

On 4 September 2007 the first revenue train to use High Speed 1 to St Pancras set a new speed record:[55] it left Paris at 09:44 BST and arrived at St Pancras two hours three minutes and 39 seconds later. Officials aboard recorded speeds of up to 325 kilometres per hour (202 mph) in France and 314 kilometres per hour (195 mph) in Britain.[56][57]


On several occasions sets appeared at special events and displays, such as at Lille Flandres in 1995,[ex 1] Rotterdam Centraal Station on 6 April 1996,[ex 2] Berlin-Grunewald station for Eurailspeed 1998,[ex 3] Madrid Chamartín railway station for Eurailspeed 2002[ex 4] and at the York National Railway Museum for the Railfest 200 celebrations in 2004.[ex 5]

To celebrate ten years of Eurostar service, a barge was floated down the River Thames in London on 16 November 2004,[ex 6] with a power car on board, specially painted by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell. Named "Language of Places on Eurostar" by Langlands and Bell, it consisted of the three-letter "destination codes for all the places Eurostar goes to or connects to".[69] The barge went under Tower Bridge,[70] past the Houses of Parliament and moored beside the museum-warship HMS Belfast.[71]

At the beginning of August 2015, North of London power car 373 308, was added to the National Collection and Transported to the National Railway Museum in York.[37]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to British Rail Class 373.


  1. Eurailspeed '95: half-set 3201[58]:55
  2. Rotterdam CS open day: full-set 3309/3310[59][60][61][62]
  3. Berlin Eurailspeed '98: full-set 3303/3304[63]
  4. Madrid Eurailspeed 2002: power car 3212 + coaches, transported using Iberian gauge transporter trailers via Portbou–Barcelona–Valencia–Alcazar[64] on 12 October 2002[65]
  5. York Railfest 200: power car 3313 only[66]
  6. London floating installation: power car 3307 only[67][68]


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  4. 1 2 3 Spec Sheet; French
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  33. Class 373: Trans Manche Super Train - Kent Rail
  34. Webster, Ben (6 July 2007). "Trains for high-speed link handed over to the French". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
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  37. 1 2 Eurostar Power Car to join railway hall of fame - National Railway Museum. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
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  39. "High-speed third rail shoegear". Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  40. Wolmar, Christian (23 November 2007). "Who is going to use the new high speed line?". Rail Magazine. No. 579. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  41. Millward, David (27 November 2008). "Eurostar services could be disrupted by strike in run up to Christmas". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  42. Keating, Oliver. "Features of the Eurostar: The Windscreen". High Speed Rail (HSR). Retrieved 29 September 2010. it was found that going down a tunnel at a fast rate for several minutes induced a hypnotic affect on the driver
  43. Rogers, Robert. "Eurostar Depot". The Newham Story. Newham Council. if a normal size window and side windows were used, it causes Hypnotic effect on the driver when travelling through the Tunnel.
  44. Poole, Bob. "Class 373 Eurostar high speed electric multiple units". The Gravesend Railway Enthusiasts Society. Retrieved 27 September 2010. the small size of the drivers window is deliberate, to avoid hypnotic effects while in tunnel.
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  46. 1 2 "TGVweb TGV Accidents article". Retrieved 10 May 2009.
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  57. Official Waterloo 'Goodbye' video, useful statistics and numbers shown
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  59. tramlijn30 (7 April 1996). "Open dag NS" (photograph). Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  60. Smit, Johannes J. (7 April 1996). "NS D0132" (photograph). Retrieved 15 February 2012. 6511 met Eurostar 3309 in Rotterdam CS
  61. Vliet, Gerard van (7 April 1996). "960407 Rotterdam CS". Eurostar 3309
  62. Spilt, Nico. "Rotterdam CS (deel 2)". Langs de rails (in Dutch).
  63. Perkins, Justin D. "East meets West in Berlin" (photograph). The 373 was in Berlin for Eurailspeed '98
  64. Tito Mario. "Adivina adivinanza…". Flickr. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  65. Theißen, Johannes (20 January 2003). "Eurostar im "Rollbockbetrieb"". Eisenbahn-Kurier (in German). Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  66. "Record-breaking Eurostar features at Railfest 2004". Association of Train Operating Companies. Retrieved 25 August 2009. power car 3313 will be there to take its place among other historic record-breaking locomotives.
  67. "Eurostar floats!". Eurostar. 15 November 2004. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  68. "Eurostar pushes the boat out for its tenth birthday". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 151 no. 1245. January 2005. p. 11. 3307 was craned onto barge Tarra Marique, then moored alongside HMS Belfast … delayed … those killed or injured in the Ufton derailment |chapter= ignored (help)
  69. 2007-08-10, Private email reply from Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell
  70. "Photograph of Eurostar in front of Tower Bridge". Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  71. "Short write-up of the journey". Retrieved 3 August 2009.


Further reading

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