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Work begins to ‘future-proof’ Ashford International for new Eurostar trains

Work has begun on a £10m project to prepare Ashford International station for the new e320 Eurostar trains.

The upgrades are backed by Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council, with funding coming from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s local growth fund.

Network Rail plans to install new signalling equipment, which – coupled with upgrades to platforms – will allow next generation high speed trains to access the station.

Mark Ellerby, senior commercial scheme sponsor for the infrastructure manager, said the problem stemmed from the station’s rebuild in the 1990s, when platforms were not built up to European standards because the Eurostars of the day could run on regular British tracks.

“The work we are doing with new signalling equipment and the platforms will future-proof the town’s station and preserve its status as part of Europe’s high speed network – one of only four stations in the country to have that honour,” he added.

“High speed rail and links to Europe have given Ashford a huge boost over the past 21 years and we are pleased to be working with Eurostar and local authorities to keep that going.”

Work needs to be completed before April, when the first of Eurostar’s new trains will visit the station.

The company began running services on the London-Brussels route in May last year as part of a £1bn investment programme.

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “This multi-million-pound investment in state-of-the-art signalling equipment at Ashford International will secure the long-term future of Ashford’s place on the European rail map.”

He went on to apologise to residents for any disruption caused by the works, but said the economic benefits it would bring to Ashford would be worth it.

And Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for transport, commented: “Kent County Council fully supports this investment at Ashford International, which will ensure that Kent continues to be served by European rail services at both its international stations.

“The county council has worked in close partnership with Ashford Borough Council, Network Rail, Eurostar, High Speed 1 Ltd and the Office of Road & Rail to ensure that this project is brought to completion.”

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Jimbo   15/01/2018 at 17:12

This seems awful late to be starting this work - the e320's have been planned for nearly 3 years and been in service for 9 months, but they are only now starting to upgrade the station?!?

J, Leicester   16/01/2018 at 09:51

Agreed, Jimbo - it seems slightly farcical that a fleet of new trains can be in service BEFORE the infrastructure is updated to cope!

IC2000   16/01/2018 at 12:24

I think that you're being a little unreasonable here gents. The project has been under development for some time now with site works now finally underway. The project is complicated by the requirement to provide a train protection system at Ashford which is new to Network Rail (but not to HS1 & Eurostar) and to also to make platforms 3 & 4 fit for potentially any open access operator from Europe as stated in the article above.

Mike Guerra   16/01/2018 at 17:14

In about 2004 I was asked to prepare some drawings to help with changing the stainless steel nosings run above the platform edges that needed to be removed to allow double-deck TGVs to pass through Ashford. The work also included raising a road bridge at the north end of the station (if memory serves). Eurostar never bought Duplexes of course.

Andrew Gwilt   18/01/2018 at 22:09

The extension of platforms to accommodate longer trains has always been in the gender. With new and current longer trains that can carry a lot passengers has increased with more seats available and taken including the 10-Car and 11-Car Class 390’s Pendolino’s that were first introduced in 2002/2003 on the West Coast Main Line. The new Eurostar E320s (Class 374’s) are very quick, reliable and very quiet trains. Plus the seats are comfortable. Compare to the current Eurostar E300s (Class 373’s). HS2 trains could also be longer trains that could be in formation of 12-Car, 14-Car or 16-Car trains once HS2 opens in around 2026.

Icn   19/01/2018 at 10:03

Andrew, the platforms at Ashford are not being extended to cope with the Class 374s, they are already long enough. They are being modified to cope with the larger body profile of the new 374s (and anything else that may come our from mainland Europe in the future). What Pendolinos and HS2 has got to do with this article though is a bit of a mystery!

Mikeb   21/01/2018 at 21:40

@Icn. You should know by now that Andrew likes to include irrelevant comments about rolling stock in his posts because he thinks everybody wants to know about different classes of EMUs and DMUs and he is therefore the "expert" to provide the information. The sad thing is, very few people are interested.

Mike Guerra   22/01/2018 at 15:57

Ashford has already got 400m long platforms, however the new Siemens trains are EU GA gauge (the Class 373s were modified TGVs with a narrower waist) and so would be about 100mm (my guess) too wide for the Ashford platforms. So it is all about gauging and installing KVB protection (again my guess, as that is what is used at StP). Given that HM Gov has explicitly excluded any connection between HS2 and HS1 (for cost reasons, though it could have been squeezed into a tunnel between Euston and Stratford), the likelihood of any HS2 trains running to the Continent any time soon is unfortunately precluded; which is exceptionally poor judgement IMHO; notwithstanding the lack of decision over how wide (i.e. what gauge) the HS2 trains will be. If they are to extend beyond the high-speed bit onto the NR mainline then they will need to be narrow width (e.g. like Class 373s) rather than the 'fat' ICEs they keep showing on the telly.

Jerry Alderson   22/01/2018 at 17:41

As Icn and Mile have implied, the platforms at Ashford International are being made slightly narrower to allow for the wider e320 trains. As it happens I was on Eurostar last night and my train (an e300, obviously, and refurbished fortunately) stopped there. They have fenced off part of the platform. Although the e320s have a higher to speed I'm not aware that they are going beyond 300 km/h at the moment (or any time soon on the current routes). The refurbished trains occasionally display the train speed and it reached 302 km/h on my trip. The new trains are not longer. They are able to carry more passengers because there is no power car, so passengers travel immediately behind the driver and 16 long (non-articulated) carriages rather than 18 short (articulated) carriages means that less space is lost on the vestibule areas.

Sarah Wilkinson   03/03/2018 at 11:46

The lift at Ashford international for disabled passengers to access the platform has been out of action for so long how can this be? It is discrimination to these passengers not being able to travel from Ashford

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