Ten years on, passengers and politicians are seeing the benefits of Southeastern Highspeed rail
After a decade of Southeastern Highspeed rail, the service has become fundamental to Kent in powering the local economy, supporting jobs and shaping the community.
Southeastern is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Britain’s first domestic high speed rail service. Since its introduction in 2009 the company’s Highspeed trains have had an enormous impact on the communities they serve and the regional economy in Kent.
Southeastern’s Javelin trains were built using Hitachi’s Japanese bullet train technology, allowing them to travel at speeds of up to 140 mph. This has brought London within commuting distance for Kent towns previously overlooked by workers in the capital because of the longer journey times.
Canterbury can now be reached from St Pancras International station in just over 50 minutes, reduced from 1 hour and 45 minutes. A journey to Ashford used to take 81 minutes, but Southeastern Highspeed has slashed the time in half to just 38 minutes. Business and investment in the Kent town is thriving, with fast train connections and office space 73% cheaper to rent than in London. The county’s coastal towns have also been brought closer to the capital and places like Margate, Whitstable and Folkestone are flourishing – open for business, tourism and commuters alike.
Faster journeys have been matched by impressive punctuality. State of the art technology, modern infrastructure, and the kaizen culture of continuous improvement mean that the Highspeed service is extremely reliable. Trains are ready for service 99.7% of the time and the average delay on the high speed line is less than five seconds per journey.
Those travelling with Southeastern Highspeed seem impressed. Overall passenger satisfaction is 92% - one of the country’s highest ratings for any train operator. It’s no wonder that passenger numbers have increased by around 12% year-on-year, with more than 100 million journeys made since the service was launched.
And there’s not just the impressive service record to be proud of. £3.8 billion in economic and social benefits have been delivered by the high speed line and businesses are booming in towns connected to the high speed network. They’re able to access a huge pool of talent with new, faster connections to the capital. Ashford alone has seen seven major developments break ground around the station in recent years – including offices, a new cinema, outlet shopping, a new college and even a new brewery.
David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern says: “Since its launch 10 years ago, we have seen a marked increase in the number of businesses wanting to invest and grow in locations such as Stratford and the towns we connect across Kent.”
One of the biggest impacts has been the acceleration Kent’s visitor economy. Almost a third of journeys on Southeastern Highspeed are taken by tourist and leisure travellers. Over the last ten years, the high speed line has delivered a £1 billion boost to the Kent visitor economy, helping support 72,000 jobs in the county.
As debate continues over the future of rail investment in Britain, there’s no doubt that Kent’s towns, businesses and residents are enjoying the opportunities provided by high speed rail connections. The route of Britain’s first high speed railway was initially hotly debated, but one thing is clear after a decade of Southeastern Highspeed; passengers and politicians alike see the service as fundamental to their communities. It powers the local economy and shapes where people choose to live and raise their families. For Southeastern, it has been an honour to operate the Highspeed service for the last ten years. Long may it continue.