Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Introducing the e320

e320 train sets at London St Pancras. Behind can be seen one of the first of the original class 373's to be refurbished (and rebranded as e300)

Since the channel tunnel opened in 1994 the Alsthom built class 373's have been the face of Eurostar cross channel operations. Now Eurostar's new class 374 (branded as e320 to indicate the top speed of 320kph) trains have launched bringing a new standard of channel tunnel to Paris and soon beyond.
The e320 Eurostar sets are part of the Siemens 'Velaro' family and break the traditional French high speed train format of a power car at each end with trailer coaches in between as was the case on the class 373's. These EMU's have 16 vehicles (formed of 2x 8 coach sets) and without power cars, or the restrictions of the UK loading gauge there are more seats on board and the passenger vehicles feel more spacious. The trains are kitted out with WiFi, power sockets, and reading lamps for passenger comfort as well as the ability to run through more European countries in order to extend routes.

Lunch in Standard Premiere from London to Paris.
Standard Premiere accommodation with 2+1 seating.

First impressions of the train are good and the feel is very much different and more modern than the older class 373 fleet. Coaches are light and airy and the seats are large and comfortable. My first trip is in Standard Premiere with comfortable reclining seats and a pleasant meal served to my seat. The conditions in Standard class for my return trip are noticeably less spacious, but never the less still of a good level of comfort as you would expect from a journey of this length. TV screens in both classes display information about on board services and also from time to time display the speed of a train- a simple feature I have often lauded on high speed trains. One of the most noticeable differences is how much brighter the e320 is than the traditional trains- I still haven't decided whether this is something I like or not! There is something quite nice about slumping into the seats of a dimly lit coach on a late night Paris to London train.
Standard class seating on the e320.
Currently e320 sets are operating on a large number of services between Paris and London, and while some of Eurostars ambitions to expand further into Europe seem to have been dropped, for now, it has been announced that an extended route to Amsterdam will begin operating in 2017. Passengers hoping for direct services to German cities such as Cologne will have to keep waiting for now.

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