Eurostar today announced that it has ordered a further seven new e320 trains as it unveiled the new rolling stock at St Pancras International in London.
The cross-Channel operator's original order of ten e320s (see news, October 2010) is now in the final stages of completion, so the new order increases the number of new trains to 17 in total.
This morning's media event was to showcase the Siemens e320, a year before it goes into service at the end of 2015.
The new German-built trains will replace some of Eurostar's current fleet, which has operated for 20 years.
Each e320 will have interiors and external livery designed by Italian firm Pininfarina. Like the current stock, it will be capable of speeds up to 200mph (320kph)
However, the train can carry 894 passengers, boosting capacity by 20 per cent.
Free wifi will be available throughout, in Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier classes.
Standard class coaches come with ergonomically-designed reclining seats, both UK and continental plug sockets, and moveable coat hooks that are fixed to the top of the window frame.
Each row of seats is alternately grey and cobalt blue, while the carpeted floor is dark grey. The psychology behind alternating colour shades is so that passengers feel they are in their own private space, apparently.
Above and below: Business Premier
Business Premier: The seats recline twice as much as those in Standard
More importantly, the seating offers plenty of legroom — I am 6ft 1in tall and there was two to three inches of space between my knees and the seat in front.
In Business Premier, the seats recline twice as much as those in Standard, without encroaching on the space of the person in the seat behind. The seat cushion also extends by a couple of inches — this is a welcome addition for the taller traveller.
The same plug socket options apply, only with the addition of a USB socket. There are also reading lamps, a small mirror in the head of the seat infront, a seat pocket to hold a laptop and a ring-shaped drink holder.
Each row of seats in this class is alternately chocolate brown and light brown with a red-carpeted floor.
Business Premier single seat
Standard class carriage
Food in business class is designed by Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, "blending the best of French and British cuisine".
Each Standard Premier coach is identical to Business Premier, but has different food options, while lounge facilities also differ. The thinking behind this is that these can be "turned into" business class carriages, should there be the demand.
There are two back-to-back self-service buffet carriages in the centre of the train; each contains a WMF ground coffee machine.
Eurostar will start a new year-round direct service from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille in May 2015 (see news, July 18), which will be followed by start of services to Amsterdam via Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schiphol airport, in December 2016 (see news, September 2013).
The e320 trains will operate the new Amsterdam route as the old rolling stock is incompatible with Dutch rail signalling technology. They will also be added to Eurostar's other routes according to passenger numbers.
Nicolas Petrovic, Eurostar's chief executive, said: "Over the last 20 years, we have led the way in cross-Channel high-speed rail travel, cementing the link between the UK and mainland Europe.
"Our 20th birthday represents a key milestone for our business and marks the start of the next phase of growth and expansion. With this substantial investment in our fleet, our stations and the on-board experience, passengers can look forward to an exciting future."