Published: 11:50, 10 June 2019
| Updated: 12:24, 10 June 2019
New Eurostar trains are unlikely to be able to stop at a station in Kent until early next year due to a long-running technical fault.
The fleet of new trains have been forced to bypass Ashford International after a "power spike" problem was discovered just weeks after a high-profile launch in April last year putting them into service.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had hailed the new trains as a huge boost to the economy, saying: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since Victorian times.
"This includes significant signalling and station upgrades to enable this new fleet of high-speed international services to stop at Ashford, offering a massive boost to the local economy.”
But within weeks, a fault was discovered which led to the fleet being unable to stop at Ashford International station, which has had a £10m upgrade to accommodate the new trains.
Eurostar has remained tight-lipped over the cause of the fault but a report seen by KentOnline reveals it is connected to a power surge affecting trains when they cross from the High Speed 1 track to the Ashford ‘spur’ at the station.
“We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since Victorian times..." Chris Grayling
The “power spike” was damaging equipment on the new trains, says the report.
While the identity of the fault represents progress, the problem is unlikely to be fixed for several months and it may not be until early next year that trains will resume scheduled stops at Ashford.
The report sets out a timetable which will see contractors appointed by the end of the year to carry out the work, although there is no indication of how long it will take or when the new e320 trains will be able to stop at Ashford.
Transport chiefs say in the report: “Further testing and site visits are being undertaken at Ashford International Station and a detailed design and programme is due to be in place for the end of June 2019.”
As a result, Eurostar will continue with the timetable that it operated before April last year. This includes two services to and from Paris and a daily one to Brussels along with the service to Disneyland.
The report refers to the work being done “to reduce the options down to a preferred scheme for this unique technical solution.”
A Eurostar spokesman said: “Our e320 trains continue to go through testing whilst the technical issues are being worked on. We are working with the infrastructure provider and in the meantime our e300 and original trains continue to serve Ashford International.”
More by this authorPaul Francis