New fast trains arrive in Britain

22 August 2007

Twenty nine super-fast Japanese built trains have arrived in Britain to prepare for a new high speed service from London to Kent in the South East.

The trains, built by Hitachi the manufacturers of Japan’s iconic Shinkansen bullet train, will run at 140 mph on commuter services to towns such as Ashford, Canterbury and Dover. However, the excitement over the long awaited arrival of a train even approaching the speeds reached in other countries will have to be quelled as the trains won’t come into service for another two years.

Britain has been stuck at 125 mph since the Seventies, whilst passengers in countries such as France, Spain and Japan have been motoring along in the 180s mph. Spain, a country under the military dictatorship of General Franco until 1975, has invested in the super-fast AVE (meaning bird) train which links Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. This summer Spain launched a new generation of 217 mph trains.

The £260m contract to run the service was won by the Go-Ahead group last year and will be serviced by South Eastern. Calls for a high speed British network have long fallen on deaf ears at Government although supporters of rail travel will no doubt welcome the trains as at least something of a concession to 20th century rail travel, as we enter the next century.

According to Government figures the new service, using existing and new track, will cut the journey from Ashford to St Pancras from 87 mins to 37, from 102 to 61 for Canterbury and 98 to 63 for Dover. Estate Agents in Kent are apparently already salivating. There will be a new station at Ebbsfleet near the M25 and the service will add a further 10,000 seats to Eastern’s existing 400,000 passengers.

Typically Government is still dragging its feet on improving rail travel. The latest railway white paper made no commitment to a long-discussed high-speed line from London to the north. Proposals for a new inter-city fleet only specify top speeds of 125mph. And there are believed to be concerns about the quantity of energy required to power a super-high speed service.

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