Published: 14:22, 23 September 2019
| Updated: 18:39, 23 September 2019
Rail chiefs are hailing a decade of High Speed 1 trains - saying the service has revolutionised travel for passengers and helped boost the county’s economy.
The ground-breaking service was launched in 2009 and in the ten years it has operated has carried 100 million passengers to and from London, with two key international stations at Ashford and Ebbsfleet.
Scroll down to hear from transport campaigner James Willis.
Southeastern, which runs the trains, says high speed infrastructure has boosted the Kent economy to the tune of an estimated £1 billion and supported around 72,000 jobs.
The service has also boosted tourism in Kent, with close to one third of all journeys on HS1 made by visitors.
While a question mark has been placed over the government’s plans for a second generation High Speed 2 service, HS1 continues to prove popular with rail users - notwithstanding the concerns about ticket prices.
With journey times to and from Ashford to London slashed to 38 minutes from one hour and 20 minutes and trains travelling at 140mph, HS1 trains have become some of the best-used and over the years Southeastern has extended services to other parts of the county, including Deal and Maidstone.
David Statham, managing director at Southeastern said: “Since its launch 10 years ago, we have seen a marked increase in the number of businesses wanting to invest and grow in the locations such as Stratford and towns across Kent we connect. Southeastern Highspeed has played a key role in major events such as the London 2012 Olympics and been a catalyst for growth, generating economic, cultural and social value.”
High Speed 1 turns 10
Changes to journey times had “transformed the opportunities available to people living in Kent.”
Ashford MP Damian Green said: “It has clearly been the biggest single beneficial change to Ashford’s prosperity. The town’s slogan was“Best Placed for Britain” and that was because of the fast train links to London and Europe. That is as true now as it was then.”
High speed trains had proved how they could bring benefits to an area, he added.
He acknowledged that there were concerns over the cost of fares, particularly for season-tickets.
“I have always found that people will grudgingly accept paying more for a premium service and by and large, HS1 does that.”
Season ticket prices for HS1 services are among the highest in the country, with a one-year travelcard for Ashford to London costing £7,583.