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Government considers radical bid for fast new Southeastern commuter trains from Ashford International Station to London Cannon Street

Radical plans for a fast new rail service from Kent to London are being considered by the government, it can be revealed.

The new service, using the existing non-high speed network, would whisk commuters to the Cannon Street station from Ashford in well under an hour.

It would come as a major boon for commuters and improve links to the capital for those arriving in Kent from the continent.

Services are affected. Stock picture.
Services are affected. Stock picture.

The service would run from Ashford International Station to London – stopping only at Tonbridge.

A spokesman for rail operator Southeastern said: "It's important to stress that the final decision on timetabling and new services rests with the Department for Transport.

"It's not something Southeastern can decide.

"I can confirm that a fast service to Cannon Street, stopping only at Tonbridge, was a passenger aspiration that was expressed during consultation."

Ashford International Station. Picture: Martin Apps
Ashford International Station. Picture: Martin Apps

Southeastern has submitted a draft rail timetable to the DfT containing suggested services linking London with the south east for January 2015 to 2017.

At the moment, passengers travelling from Ashford to Cannon Street have a choice of either one of the regular services or the fast service combined with Tube travel.

Trains to Cannon Street stop nine times before reaching their destination, more than an hour and 20 minutes after leaving Ashford International.

That service stops at Pluckley, Headcorn, Staplehurst, Marden, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Hildenborough, Sevenoaks and London Bridge before finally arriving at Cannon Street.

High speed passengers have the option of changing at Stratford International and completing the journey in a little over an hour on the underground.

Southeastern has proposed a fast service from Ashford International to Cannon Street
Southeastern has proposed a fast service from Ashford International to Cannon Street

Alternatively, they can travel from Ashford to St Pancras International on Southeastern's HS1 service before crossing London on the Tube network.

A shortened service linking Ashford directly with the City would increase the choice for commuters.

It is not yet known exactly how long the new service would take to reach Cannon Street from Ashford, but it is expected to be well under an hour.

Southeastern had previously conducted a consultation exercise inviting views from passenger groups on where services could be improved.

Passengers were also able to suggest new services and the more workable proposals were assessed in terms of viability by Southeastern.

Finally, the company drew up a draft timetable based - where possible - on the consultation results.

Among the services being considered by transport minister Patrick McLoughlin, the new Ashford to Cannon Street option is thought to be the most radical.

The Department for Transport is expected to publish its response to the draft timetabling on June 30.

Southeastern says it will publish this on its website.

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