The 2nd phase of the HS1 line was completed 10 years ago today (14th November), so here is a small history of this section, which I personally benefit from.
The 1st phase of HS1 was completed on 28th September 2003, and connected the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction, located just past Gravesend. This junction acted as a way to get Eurostar trains on and off the existing rail network, and these trains would then terminate at Waterloo. However planning had always been in place for a further section of high speed rail which would terminate at St Pancras. The award of the Olympic games to London hastened the need for the completion of this further section.
Connecting with the existing High Speed line, a new station, Ebbsfleet International was constructed. This was in preference to a new station adjacent to the M2 between Chatham and Rochester, which was thrown out on environmental grounds. Further up the line, via two tunnels, a new station at Stratford was built. This would serve the Olympic park. Also it would serve as a connection between the high speed line and an extensive national rail and underground service at the existing Stratford Station, which is a 10 minute walk away.
The line then goes through another tunnel, eventually terminating at one of 3 new platforms at St Pancras International – next to the platforms for Eurostar services. Although these are adjacent, you are not able to gain access to Eurostar from these platforms.
This second section of line was opened on 14th November 2007, and marked the completion of HS1. However only Eurostar services used the line to begin with, but plans were in place to enable the residents of Kent to benefit from the new line. A fleet of high speed trains were built by Hitachi in Japan.
The design of these was based on Hitachi’s 400 series “Mini-Shinkansen” and “A-Train”, and were given the designation of a class 395 unit in the United Kingdom. However the more common “Javelin” name is used for the units, which was given to them because of their affinity with the London Olympics. The trains were built in japan and shipped to Southampton for final fitting. In all there are currently 29, 6 car sets currently running on the Southeastern / CTRL HS1 network.
The trains are 6 car, with 340 seats per train. A quick coupling system allows running of two sets at once, and this was used for almost all of the shuttle trains between Ebbsfleet International and Stratford International during the Olympics. This configuration is also expected to be used more widely in the future, as all domestic stations on the route have been changed to accommodate 12 car trains. This includes the new station at Rochester, and the new platforms at both Rainham and Strood.
The new “Javelin” began full service on December 13th 2009, and although initial take-up was slow, it is now a very busy service, both on the Ashford and Kent coast Via Medway routes. A “Roundabout” service which officially runs as “St Pancras Intl to St Pancras Intl” runs from London, through Medway to Ramsgate and Folkestone, then up through Ashford and up to London. To Avoid confusion, the route is however split up into sections on route boards at stations.
The Journey times between Kent at London have been cut by up to 45 minutes between Ashford and London, and the convenience of connections to the north of the country at Kings cross and St Pancras has made the line very popular. Trains from the Kent coast via Faversham and Strood connect to the line at Springhead Junction, where the trains move from third rail to pantograph operation.
Stratford International station has been criticised for being something of a white elephant, as only the Southeastern services stop there. Plans have been talked about for some while to bring the German ICE trains to use the route, which would stop at Stratford International. There is however no agreement still on when, or even if, these services will start (although in March 2017, Deutsche Bahn announced they would like it to start in 2020). The station is still well used however, and the regeneration of the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre enable it to still be a viable station on the network.
Videos of mine relating to Railways, can be found on my YouTube channel, just search “Rainham Rail Enthusiast” in YouTube. Thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.