High-speed domestic trains carry first passengers

Britain's first domestic high-speed train has made its first passenger-carrying journey nearly six months ahead of schedule. Southeastern Trains will now run 'Preview' services between Ashford, Ebbsfleet and St Pancras International until full services start in December.

The Hitachi Class 395 trains are built to run on the High Speed 1 route, which already carries international services through the Channel Tunnel, and also on the existing DC network in Kent. On HS1 they will be able to reach speeds of up to 140mph (225km/h).

The new train is Hitachi’s first rolling stock in regular service in the European market. The company has so far delivered 18 sets to a purpose-built Train Care Centre in Ashford. The remaining 11 were shipped from Hitachi’s factory in Japan on 13 June and are due to arrive in the UK in August 2009.

On-time delivery and the successful completion of 4,000 miles ‘fault free’ running have enabled Southeastern to launch a limited ‘Preview’ service starting on 29 June. This will not only give passengers a taster but will also allow Southeastern to continue testing, training, adjusting to passenger feedback and ensure that the introduction of the full December timetable runs smoothly.

With its 29 new trains, the high-speed service will not only offer shorter journey times for passengers willing to pay a premium fare, but will also create extra capacity on mainline and metro networks in Kent.

Southeastern commercial director Vince Lucas says that provision of the new services should encourage people working in the St Pancras area to move to Kent, while the opening of the HS1 station at Stratford will give access to the important Docklands commercial area and persuade people who currently drive to switch to the train. "We don't want to take people off existing services, but to create new business," he says.

Ebbsfleet, just 17 minutes from St Pancras, will have the largest park and ride facility in the UK. Ashford, on the route to the Channel ports of Dover and Folkestone, will be 37 minutes from London.

Speaking at the launch event, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis pointed out that the standard journey time to Ashford is currently 82 minutes. "The first domestic high-speed services for Kent will transform the experience of the travelling public, and are a significant milestone for transport infrastructure," he said. "The success of High Speed 1 will strengthen the argument for a second high-speed line. This is a seminal moment for high-speed rail here in Britain."

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