Tunnel rail service set to begin in mid-1994

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The Independent Online
TRAIN services between London, Brussels and Paris through the Channel tunnel will begin in mid- 1994, British Rail and its partners in the venture disclosed yesterday.

At first there will probably be one train every two hours, increasing quickly to one every hour.

The schedule depends on the reliability of the 38 trains, worth pounds 30m each, supplied by GEC- Alsthom.

The joint venture between the three railways - SNCF (France), SNCB (Belgium) and European Passenger Services, wholly owned by BR - will be known as Eurostar. The French will get the majority of the revenue because of their greater investment.

Should the tunnel open, as announced earlier this month by Eurotunnel, in December 1993, it will run only shuttle trains between Calais and Folkestone.

The 500-kilometre (311-mile) journey from London to Paris will take three hours and the 381km trip to Brussels 3hr 15min, though this will be reduced to 2hr 40min when the high-speed link in Belgium is completed in 1996.

The times will be further reduced when Britain builds its own high-speed link, but this will probably not be completed before 2000.

The trains will travel at 160km per hour on two-thirds of the British line and through the tunnel, but at 300km on the French line which will be shared with domestic high-speed TGV services.

Business fares are expected to be about pounds 200, or pounds 350 return, and much lower for other users. There will be 794 seats on each train, with two classes.

British Rail is to spend nearly pounds 6m on safety improvements to the Severn tunnel after an accident last December in which 150 people were injured, it told the last day of a public inquiry in Cardiff yesterday. BR accepted responsibility for the accident in which a Portsmouth-to-Cardiff Sprinter ploughed into the back of a London-to-Cardiff InterCity.

The Sprinter driver, Stephen Carpenter, said the signal at the tunnel entrance changed from red to green as he approached.