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Night stock enters service at last

01 Aug 2002

TEN YEARS after they were ordered to operate overnight services between the UK and continental Europe through the Channel Tunnel (RG 3.92 p133), the first Alstom-built European Night Stock vehicles finally began carrying passengers on June 23. But not in Britain, or even in Europe.

Rechristened as the Renaissance cars, the vehicles were launched on VIA Rail Canada's Enterprise overnight service. These trains depart from Montréal and Toronto at 23.30 each night. The eastbound train arrives in Montréal at 08.00, and the westbound reaches Toronto at 08.20.

As part of the government-funded, five-year C$402m investment to modernise inter-city passenger services, VIA purchased from Alstom in December 2000 all 139 Renaissance cars, which were returned to the manufacturer in 1998 after the ENS project collapsed (RG 1.01 p16). All are now expected to be in service by the end of 2003, expanding VIA's passenger fleet by a third.

Introduction of the new stock will allow VIA to add extra services later this year in the Québec City - Windsor corridor, which accounts for around 80% of VIA's 4 million passenger journeys each year. The cars will also take over services between Montréal and Halifax/Gaspé next year, releasing existing stock for transfer back to Western Canada where a lack of vehicles has limited VIA's ability to meet growing demand.

The Renaissance fleet includes 47 seats cars, 72 sleeping cars, and 20 service cars. Each sleeping car has 10 two-berth compartments (top left), all of which have en-suite retention toilets and six of which also have en-suite showers. The seats cars (top right) carry 50 passengers, with 2+1 seating.

The service cars have a lounge area (below) and galley kitchen, a baggage area and conductor's office. Each also has a fully disabled-accessible suite (bottom right), which can be used for day occupancy or as a sleeping compartment. Wheelchair tie-down spaces and accessible toilets will also be provided in at least one seating car on each train. These accessibility provisions are currently being reviewed by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The part-built cars are being assembled and modified by Bombardier Transportation at Thunder Bay, bringing the total cost of the project to C$130m. The work includes strengthening of the body structure, changes to the air brake equipment, modification of the steps to suit lower station platforms, new couplers and the improvements to suit Canadian disabled-accessibility requirements. European-style auxiliary power connections and on-train customs facilities have been removed.

The new stock is being paired with a build of 21 Genesis P42-9DC diesel locomotives ordered from General Electric at a cost of C$80m. These 177 km/h locos entered service in November and December 2001, replacing the last LRC power cars (RG 1.02 p9).

CAPTION: Genesis locos have been diagrammed to haul Via Rail's Renaissance fleet