LONDON, 14 December 2009: Today saw the official launch of the UK’s first domestic high speed service. The new high speed service operates from St Pancras International to Kent and is part of a fully integrated timetable in the South East, marking the biggest change in 40 years.
Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis said, "These fantastic new services, made possible by the Government's investment in this £5.8bn high speed new line, are changing the transport map of Kent. Journey times have shrunk dramatically, bringing regeneration and new opportunities for investment.
"This shows the potential of high speed rail and we now must consider what it can do for the rest of the country."
The new service, which will see Hitachi-built trains operate at 140 mph along High Speed 1 (HS1), will dramatically reduce journey times across the region. Ashford International will now only take 37 minutes as compared to an average of 80 minutes on existing Mainline services. Towns and cities such as Canterbury and Folkestone will now be just an hour from London. Charles Horton, managing director, Southeastern said, “Today marks the most important day in our franchise. We have been working hard since 2006 to achieve this goal. To be able to bring in the trains six months early as part of a preview service over the summer is testament to the teamwork we have put in with Hitachi, HS1 and Network Rail. The preview service proved a great success with passenger feedback exceeding what we could have hoped. This is a great day, not only for us but the industry, as we bring in the UK’s first domestic high speed service.” The new timetable will also provide an extra 200 trains across the region and increase capacity on the network by 5%. The majority of passengers will see an improved service with stations such as Tunbridge Wells gaining an extra four services during the peak. Alistair Dormer, Managing Director, Hitachi Rail Europe, said, “Today’s introduction of the full service is the culmination of many hours of hard work by the whole Hitachi Rail team and of course our partners Southeastern, Network Rail and HS1. Delivering the trains on time, ready to run six months ahead of schedule is a great achievement for us. With the handover of the trains to Southeastern, our focus shifts to the maintenance work. Staff at our state-of-the-art depot in Ashford have used the preview service to plan and prepare our operations for this day. They are now ready to face the challenge of providing safe, clean, and reliable trains to Southeastern and their passengers – and they are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to achieve this. Tim Smart, Director, High Speed 1, said: “Everyone involved in today’s celebration should feel extremely proud. The full launch of high speed domestic services marks another hugely significant milestone in the development of high speed rail in the UK. Together with our colleagues from Southeastern, Hitachi and Network Rail, High Speed 1 is again at the forefront of progress. We have proven that high speed rail works not only in terms of faster and more reliable journeys but in terms of fostering regeneration and economic development.” For further details about the high speed service and the new timetable then please visit southeasternrailway.co.uk