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Eurostar e320 Inaugural Pubic Journey

Alan Spencer.

Friday 20th November 2015.

Eurostar had kept the inaugural public run of their new Siemens e320 train a fairly low key affair. The main reasons for this were two-fold: 1, Testing and staff training did not start until late August. 2nd - permission to run in public service was not initially approved. In actual fact, permission to run was not granted till 23:59 on the 18th November.  Another factor which suddenly happened and almost stopped the run at the very last minute was the terrorist attacks in Paris the weekend before.

About three months before the actual date, I was made aware that the 20/11 was the penciled in date for a public run. The times being – 10:24 London to Paris, and 16:13 Paris to London.  Over the coming weeks, I managed to obtain twenty seats out & back. The give-away on the tickets were the coach numbers. The original Eurostar fleet being 1–18, with the e320 having 1–16.  Additionally, the Standard Premier coaches are 1–3 & 14–16.

So, on the 20th November, members of the L&CI, became some of the first public passengers to sample an e320. With heightened security, we departed St Pancras to spend just two and a half hours in Paris.

The e320 is actually very similar to a DB ICE7 (the interior is virtually identical), and it did reveal a much more ambient and spacious interior. Even better toilet facilities and remarkably after 20 years of complaining, proper toilet tissue instead of the old pink grease proof paper.  Both buffets are in the middle of the new train, but as the Standard Premier / Business Premier have their own galley, the buffet only occupies half the coach, as against a full coach in the present fleet. These are now referred to as ‘e300 sets’, which reflects the speed difference in the Siemens and Alstom trains.

Full use of the 320kph was not taken, as until the fleet is settled in, the timings are still based on 300kph.

We reached Paris roughly two minutes early, where the weather was appalling, so our group made the short hop across the road to visit the Café

 du Nord, for a lunchtime snack. Suitably refreshed, we returned to check in for the 16:13 departure.

Unfortunately, this came and went, as technical staff were seen checking the rear cab, for a fault (we were in coach 16, so witnessed this event), at one point in time it looked like we might have to use the standby set that had followed us over from London.  However, at 16:31 we finally set off. Initially, we only managed to achieve about 80 kph, but then the unit finally did as requested and raced across northern France, reaching London just five minutes late.

Everyone agreed what a difference there was between the two differing sets, and were suitably impressed with the quality and enhancements that the e320 has over the 21 year old e300.

Several trains went over to e320 operation from 13/12/15. With 900 seats, as against 760, it will be interesting to see how traffic levels build up following the drop from 12,000 per day to 7,000 per day following the bombings etc, in Paris over the weekend of 14/15th November.