AFTER years lying around in workshops and military depots in various stages of completion, the Channel Tunnel Night Stock is heading for a new home. On December 15 Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette joined Via Rail Chairman & Acting CEO Marc LeFrançois in Montreal to announce that VIA is buying all 139 cars from Alstom for the knock-down price of C$125m.

The fleet of sleeping, reclining-seat and restaurant/service cars was built in the mid-1990s for a consortium of four European railways, but the business case for overnight services between cities in Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands collapsed in 1997. The heavy fire-proofed stock was handed back to Alstom in lieu of payment. Various buyers were canvassed, including ScotRail and eastern European operators, but no deal emerged. When Via was allocated C$400m for investment earlier this year Alstom shipped one of each vehicle type to its local subsidiary for Via to test (RG 7.00 p404).

Although the restrictive British loading gauge means they are much smaller than their North American counterparts, the Night Stock vehicles are about 40 years younger than most of VIA’s fleet. They also have retention toilets and are designed for disabled accessibility. After ’extensive trials’ VIA decided they would meet local safety standards and were ’compatible with Canadian operating conditions’. Delivery is to start immediately, and should be completed by mid-2001. The first are expected to enter service ’across Canada’ in the autumn.