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High Speed One: The success of domestic high speed

High Speed One: The success of domestic high speed
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As some of you may know, I used to live in Canterbury, which is home to two stations. Canterbury East, for services southbound to Dover Priory and northbound to Faversham and London Victoria, and the busier Canterbury West, for services eastbound to Margate and Ramsgate, and westbound to Tonbridge, Maidstone East, Bromley South and London Victoria.

But, more recently, Canterbury West is served by “Southeastern Highspeed”. The first actual domestic high speed service in the UK. Today, I’m going to explain how it works, the services, passenger numbers, and future development of the system.

High Speed One is the UK’s first true high speed railway, running between London St Pancras International and the Channel Tunnel. Its main use is for Eurostar services to France, Germany and Belgium (among others in the future), however, it’s also used by Southeastern Class 395s to run domestic “classic compatible” services to Kent and Medway.

These domestic services are super popular for those all around Kent and Medway. In fact, in the first ten years of service (2009-2019), 100 million people have used the service.

Southeastern Highspeed runs to Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International respectively, via Stratford International, where they disconnect from High Speed One (HS1), and operate on third rail (as is common as opposed to Overhead Line Electrification in the south east) at a lower speed to their final destinations. These are:

  • Dover Priory via Ashford International and Folkestone Central
  • Ramsgate via Ashford International and Dover Priory
  • Ramsgate via Ebbsfleet International, Chatham and Margate
  • Margate via Ashford International, Canterbury West and Ramsgate

Now, let’s move onto the “Kent Rail Strategy”. Given Kent has a huge rail network, it’s a big document, with 85 pages, focussing on their three types of rail; Metro, Mainline, and Highspeed. Today, we’re focussing on how Kent County Council plan to expand their Highspeed network.

Let’s start with the simple stuff – stations. A new station (although we don’t understand exactly what the business case for it is, since all it’s doing is serving a closed airport), Thanet Parkway, is opening in mid-2023, and it’s required that all trains passing through (Mainline and Highspeed) call there. This means the Ramsgate via Dover Priory and Margate via Canterbury West Highspeed services will call at Thanet Parkway.

As well as this, Kent County Council and Southeastern are considering calling Highspeed services at Westenhanger, between Ashford International and Folkestone Central, as a new village, known as Otterpool Garden Village, is currently being constructed. This may increase journey times to and from Dover Priory, unfortunately.

And now the more exciting stuff – routes! At the moment, there are only two diesel routes passing through Kent; the Marshlink Line between Ashford International and Hastings, and the Oxted line between Oxted and Uckfield.

There are ambitions within the rail strategy to do one of two things with the Marshlink Line in particular. Either:

  1. Purchase bi-mode Highspeed units (potentially based on the Class 80x series), and run Highspeed services between St Pancras International and Eastbourne via Rye, Hastings and Bexhill alongside the existing diesel Southern stopper.
  2. Electrify the Marshlink Line, either via OLE or third rail, and run a Highspeed service between St Pancras International and Eastbourne via Rye, Hastings and Bexhill alongside a new Southern electrified stopper.

These are both costly options, but would definitely benefit Hastings and Eastbourne in terms of journey times to London and connectivity to East Kent.

In conclusion, Southeastern Highspeed has effectively pulled southern parts of Kent closer to Stratford and central London, and there’s even more work to be done to improve connectivity not just to Kent and Medway but to East Sussex in the future too. There’s exciting stuff to come.

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