Today (Friday 10th November) the rail industry and politicians are gathering in Kent to celebrate ten years since Hitachi opened its high speed train depot. The event includes a speech by Damian Green MP for Ashford and the presentation of the statue crafted by local artist, Joel Tarr.
In 2007, Hitachi opened the £60million site in Ashford to maintain the fleet of high speed trains. The Javelin trains, which connect London to Kent, began testing in the region following the Ashford depot opening.
The Javelin’s entered passenger service in 2009, six months ahead of schedule. The fleet of 29 trains have been a huge success and rose to prominence in the public’s imagination during the London 2012 Olympics, where they operated 2.4million journeys. Outwith the sport, they became one of the defining images of the games.
Hitachi built the fleet using their Japanese bullet train technology, making the trains aerodynamic and light. Running at speeds of up to 140mph they are Britain’s fastest train.
Reliable high speed service boost for Kent business and tourism
Having a reliable and punctual high speed train service has been cited as a reason for a rise in tourist numbers in Kent. Leisure journeys to Kent via the high speed route have increased nine-fold since 2010, up from 100,000 to 890,000 per year.
Hitachi’s Javelin trains have cut journey times between London St Pancras International and Ashford in half, down from 84 minutes to 37 minutes. The speed of the service has seen Kent become a popular destination for businesses to be based, as well as commuters moving to newly built housing developments along the route.
The maintenance team at Ashford depot ensure the fleet carries 275,000 people every week, with more than 9 in 10 passengers reporting themselves as satisfied with their journey
With demand increasing for services on the route, the industry is looking at how it can improve capacity as part of the new South Eastern franchise due to be awarded in the autumn of 2018.
Ashford depot supporting long-term jobs in Kent
Hitachi’s investment in Ashford has seen the creation of long-term skilled jobs in the area. The depot employs over 128 people, including two new apprentices taken on every year. The Ashford depot has also set-up a work experience programme and holds regular school visits to promote careers in rail to local young people.
The impact of Hitachi’s investment is also benefitting local businesses. Since the depot was opened, Hitachi has spent millions with 28 local businesses who supply equipment and services.
Karen Boswell OBE, Managing Director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said:
“We wanted to do something special to mark this anniversary. The team at Ashford work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to make sure passengers and our partners at Southeastern and HS1 can rely on a world-class high speed train service.
“Exceptional performance has been the springboard for Hitachi Rail to develop further in the UK. But we are very much still part of the community in Ashford and we will continue to be a good employer that supports local businesses, schools and charitable causes.”
David Statham, Managing Director, Southeastern said:
“We’re proud to be Hitachi’s partners in setting the industry standard in high speed rail travel. Since 2010 we’ve seen nearly 87 million passenger journeys on the UK’s only high speed line, which is our jewel in the crown. We are also delighted that, according to the recent national survey, 93% of our high speed passengers are satisfied with our services, which is significantly higher than the national average of 83%. We expect high speed rail services to remain at the heart of transport infrastructure and economic development across Kent in the coming years”.
Richard Thorp, Head of Route Engineering at HS1 Ltd.
“Today is all about recognising the efforts that have gone into delivering a decade of world class high speed rail. It is fantastic to be able to celebrate the success of HS1 with so many of our partners, who have helped us to achieve unrivalled efficiency and passenger satisfaction. As owners of the concession we are committed to ensuring that HS1 continues to add economic, cultural and social value to the regions it serves and the UK more widely.”