Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I am grateful to David Foley from Thanet and East Kent Chamber for letting me publish his guide to the new High Speed 1 service launch 10 days ago:

High Speed 1

The new link promises to boost regeneration in East Kent.

1. The public launch train on 18th June

Southeastern had invited members of the media and key stakeholders to this momentous occasion billed as the first major railway project for 100 years. Included in the select guest list was the former British Ambassador to Japan, Sir Stephen Gommersall, who is now Hitachi's Chief Executive for Europe. He was joined by Chiaki Ueda, Managing Director of Hitachi Rail Maintenance (UK) Ltd, as well as Dr Stephen Ladyman MP for South Thanet and Gwyn Prosser MP for Dover. Philip Carter, Chairman of Shepway Economic Regeneration Partnership, ensured that the interests of Folkestone and Lydd Airport were present. The advantages to Kent business were clearly outlined in the welcome pack provided. Just in case anyone did not get the message, Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate In Kent, was on hand to ensure that no potential investment opportunity was lost. Local government across Kent was well represented from one end of Kent to the other with the leader of Dartford Borough Council, Cllr Jeremy Kite, as enthusiastic as the Leader of Dover District Council, Cllr Paul Watkins. Southeastern's Managing Director, Charles Horton, was particularly proud that this inaugural run was taking place nearly six months ahead of schedule.

2. How Long Did It Take?

In his formal speech before departure, Charles Horton promised that the train would leave on time and would take no longer than the scheduled 37 minutes. In fact, from the closing of the carriage doors at London St Pancras to the opening of the same at Ashford International, just 29 minutes elapsed.

3. Technical Specifications

Each train consists of six air-conditioned passenger saloons or what we used to call carriages in the days of British Rail. There will be 338 seats available in all in configurations of 2 + 2. Including any standing passengers, the trains are licensed to carry a maximum of 508 passengers. Two trains can be linked to double the capacity. Top speed is 140 mph on the special track and 100 mph elsewhere. The distance from the Channel Tunnel to St Pancras is 68 miles of which 16 miles will be in a tunnel. Power to the Hitachi Class 395 train comes from overhead cables carrying 25,000 volts on the High Speed section and 750 volts via a conductor rail on the standard lines. Closed circuit television will monitor all passengers who will also be protected from accidents by the TVM 430/KVB train protection system.

5. How Many Trains Will Be Available?

There will be 29 train sets ready before December 2009. The original order was for 28 which would have excluded Dover. Steve Ladyman, then Transport Minister, pressed the case for an extra train in order to service Dover. Much to the delight of his Labour Party colleague, Gwyn Prosser MP for Dover, the Treasury relented. Following extensive works to Shakespeare Cliff tunnel the route to Dover is now secured. There are currently 18 train sets in Ashford. The remaining 11 left the Hitachi factory in Japan on 13 June and should arrive in August 2009.

6. Must We Wait Until December?

The short answer is no. From 29th June 2009, Southeastern will be running a Preview Timetable which will operate from Monday to Friday with departures from Ashford International at 0648 hrs, 0713 hrs and 0748 hrs. Return journeys will leave London St Pancras at 1737 hrs, 1837 hrs and 1926 hrs.

7. What About Other Train Services in East Kent?

Hitachi is contracted to Southeastern to provide Class 465 traction units, what we used to call locomotives, in a replacement programme that will see a full fleet of 97 trains operating before April 2010. Such is the quality of the Japanese engines that Wayne Jenner, Southeastern's Engineering Director, expects reliability to improve by a factor of 10. As he put it, "We expect the modifications to virtually eliminate traction failures", although presumably the new tractor units will not eliminate split infinitives.

8. What Ever Happened To CTRL?

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link designation has been changed to High Speed 1 or HS 1. New lines will presumably become HS 2, HS 3 and so on. I enjoyed a fruitful discussion with Chiaki Ueda which included the importance of finding brand names that are suitable for a British clientele. Japanese companies sometimes find that the product names in their domestic market do not always transfer easily to Europe. One of Japan's best selling soft drinks is Calpis which, bearing in mind the colour of the liquid in the can, is not the most appealing name to a British consumer; especially not to a dairy farmer.

9. Why Is Ashford The Main Beneficiary?

In 2003, Ashford was identified by government as one of four key growth areas in the South East. Current plans allow for 28,000 new jobs and 31,000 new homes. Most East Kent towns will benefit to a greater or lesser extent from HS 1, Although passengers who usually embark at Margate may find that their journey time to the City of London will not improve, the majority of passengers who travel via Ashford should see a clear benefit. The East Kent Chamber has been promised a meeting with the Marketing Director of Southeastern to ensure that the interests of Easy Kent coastal towns are fully represented in the final timetable. We are mindful that a fast train service not only takes our residents to London but can bring London-based consumers to our retailers and service providers.

David produces an excellent digest every week of business news which is one of the best bulletins I receive as a councillor. Any business not a member of the Thanet and East Kent Chamber would be well advised to find out more by contacting him at:

David Foley
Chief Executive, Thanet & East Kent Chamber Limited
Director, Channel Chamber of Commerce
Tel: +44 (0) 1843 609289
Fax: +44 (0) 1843 609291
Email: davidfoley AT tekc.co.uk

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