Slow start for new service

THE EUROSTAR trains which will connect London with Paris and Brussels may be in service by the end of June but no definite date can yet be given by European Passenger Services, the BR subsidiary which will operate them.

The trains bear a lot of resemblance to the French high-speed variety. The interiors have the feel of an airliner but with harder seats, half of which face in each direction. Only the centre seats in each carriage have a table.

In addition to all the normal on-board facilities, such as a buffet and trolley services, there is a miniature police station complete with four lock-ups, for any troublemakers.

Standard class is decked out in grey and yellow with four seats across, and about the same leg room as business class in an aircraft. First class, in grey and red, has only three seats across, giving a wide enough berth for the most well-built passenger. Fares are likely to be similar to airlines.

EPS currently has only one train - a quarter of a mile long and incorporating 18 coaches. It is expecting delivery of one per month until it has 18, seven of which will have only 14 coaches for use on routes north of London. A second generation of trains will provide overnight sleeper services but these will not be introduced until 1996-97 at the earliest.

EPS, which is soon to be privatised to help fund the Channel tunnel rail link, denied that there were any unforeseen delays caused by a recently recognised problem in which engines cut out when crossing gaps in the third rail. However, even though completion of the Channel tunnel has been delayed by a year, EPS will still not be able to offer a service in March when the lorry shuttles start using it because it will not have completed trials. The company hopes to start a partial service by the end of June.

A spokesman said: 'It's a matter of having a minimum number of trains to give us the confidence to run a full service.' Eventually there are likely to be four trains per hour through the tunnel, taking two and a half hours to Brussels and three to Paris. Trains will run from the new station at Waterloo until the Channel tunnel rail link is completed - 2002 at the earliest. The trains will run at a maximum of 100mph in Britain and in the tunnel but will be able to do 186mph in France.