Charles Horton, managing director, Southeastern, commented, “We always hoped we could expand the preview service and thanks to its initial success we are now in a position to do this. We want as many people as possible to be able to experience the service before the full timetable is introduced in December.”
There will be two morning peak services from Ramsgate via Canterbury West and two peak services from Dover Priory via Folkestone Central and Folkestone West, returning in the evening peak. All the new services will also stop at Ashford International, resulting in an additional peak service on top of the current three trains to St Pancras International.
An off-peak return train is also being introduced between St Pancras International and Ashford International via Ebbsfleet. Trains from Ebbsfleet International will continue to have six morning peak services to St Pancras International and seven services back in the evening peak. Throughout the day, services run twice hourly between Ebbsfleet International and St Pancras International. All the services will continue to run Monday to Friday.
The new services will radically improve journey times, for example saving 49 minutes on the average commute from Ramsgate and Canterbury, 47 minutes from Dover and 44 minutes from Folkestone.
Off-peak services are:
- Twice hourly shuttle between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet
- 08.41 service from St Pancras to Ebbsfleet and Ashford
- 11.37 service from St Pancras to Ebbsfleet and Ashford
- 12.20 service from Ashford and Ebbsfleet to St Pancras
- 16.20 service from Ashford and Ebbsfleet to St Pancras
The preview service offers passengers the chance to experience the UK’s first high speed service before the full timetable is introduced on 13 December. The preview services will also allow Southeastern to continue test the service, train employees, adjust to passenger feedback and ensure that the full introduction runs smoothly.
MPs and local authorities all welcomed the new services.
Dover & Deal MP, Gwyn Prosser who used the first high speed passenger train out of Dover this morning said:
“All of the new high speed links between East Kent and London are important but our success in getting Dover Priory plugged into the high speed train network was only achieved because of our incessant lobbying of the industry and the political will and support provided by Ministers. Realising our vision of providing a high speed rail link between Europe’s busiest capital city and the world’s busiest ferry port of Dover has always been crucial to our ambitious regeneration plans and I congratulate Southeastern on delivering this expanded preview service ahead of target”
Thanet South MP Dr. Stephen Ladyman said:
I'm delighted that my constituents will have the chance to test out the new trains in advance of the full service in December. The high speed service is going to make a big difference to my constituency, I can't wait to try it out for myself."
Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury added:
“This is an exciting moment for Canterbury as it greatly improves our connectivity with London. Over the years, businesses have repeatedly told me that poor links to London were a major barrier to investment and trade. With the recession still biting, this is just the boost we need. As my party's aviation spokesman, I am particularly glad that this should greatly benefit Manston Airport with the potential for new jobs for local people."
Cllr Nigel Collor, Dover District Council Cabinet Member for Access and Property Management said:
“This is excellent news for Dover and the district, and the potential of high speed rail travel, and the fact that we can travel to London in just over an hour, is very important news. We look forward to the area realising the benefits that are already being experienced elsewhere. This is a major development as we continue to work with partners on a range of pivotal regeneration projects that continue to gain momentum for an exciting future.”
Deputy Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr. Roger Latchford, said:
"The start of preview services for the high speed rail link is an important day for Thanet and all of East Kent. The council has been pushing for the high speed rail link for many years, because of the excellent benefits it will bring to Thanet. We already have superb road links to the area, an excellent port and airport here and the high speed rail services are the missing link in our transport jigsaw. The introduction of this service will help to make Thanet even more attractive to inward investors."
Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr John Gilbey, said:
"We are very pleased to be getting preview services at Canterbury West and are looking forward to the full timetable starting in December. It brings London into easy reach for local residents and makes our district an even more attractive place for businesses to invest in and people to visit. We expect it to be very successful and provide a major economic boost for the area."
Shepway Council Leader Robert Bliss added:
“This is a fantastic result for Shepway, and proves the value of our dedicated Rail for Folkestone Group which has been working closely with Southeastern and its predecessors since its creation in 2001. Shepway will have the best of both worlds, with fast trains to London St Pancras in under an hour and regular services to London Charing Cross and Cannon Street throughout the day.”
Charles Horton concluded: “The high speed service means passengers from Dover and Ramsgate will be able to reach London in an hour and ten minutes and an hour and twenty minutes respectively. And Folkestone and Canterbury will be around an hour away, making them towns where you can now easily commute from. The high speed services we hope will act as a real catalyst for the economy in the region, but above all, it will provide an additional choice of service for passengers,”