The advent of High Speed 1 to link London with the Channel Tunnel would not only mean faster services for the Eurostar, but also could enable the population of Kent to enjoy a new faster way of travel. As early as 2003, formal approval was given to allow domestic High Speed services on High Speed 1. The award in 2006 of the 2012 Olympics to London further enhanced the need for such a service to exist.
Hitachi won the right to supply the new High Speed stock to SouthEastern Railway, their first rail contract in Britain. In total 29 were built. The service to be provided meant that the trains had to be “duel electric”, to accommodate both 750 DC third rail and 25 kV AC overhead lines. The third rail extends from Ashford to Folkestone, then onwards through the Medway Towns and finally Ebbsfleet International, where the 3rd Rail shoe is retracted and the Pantograph raised (or visa-versa).
The train is based on the 400 series “Mini Shinkansen”, and comprises of 6 carriages, which can be driven from either end. The front nose of the train can be retracted to allow automatic coupling to another 6 car unit. Power is through the middle four cars, powered by pantographs/shoes on the outer two cars. Each 6 car train has 340 seats and two toilets, one of which is disabled accessible.
Additional training had to be given to train crews, to enable them to understand the TVM 430 signalling display system which was in use on the High Speed portion of the line. This is a lot different from the UK rail signalling, mostly as it is “In Cab”.
Services started fully in December 2009. During the 2012 Olympic Games, many services were run in 12 car formations, and a regular shuttle service was established from Ebbsfleet International to Stratford International, the home of the Olympic Park. In 2015, a circular route from St Pancras to St Pancras was introduced.
The trains are designed to travel at 140 mph on the High Speed section, but are limited to 70-90 mph on the old mainline from Ashford through Margate, Medway then to Ebbsfleet. They are exceptionally comfortable, and have benefitted from being fitted with dampers to reduce the effect of excessive wobble in the High Speed tunnel sections.
The train was given the designation of class 395, but due to the Olympics quickly gathered the nickname of Javelin, which was then established across the fleet. Initially, 11 of the Javelins were named after British Olympic medalists by public vote. This increased to 23 after the 2012 Olympics, with some named after Paralympians. Other noted named Javelins were 395014 “The Victoria Cross” (later 015) and 395016 “Somme 100”.
In 2018 to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the end of World War One, 395018 had special vinyl’s applied. These can be seen below on 11/11/18, a day after a special railtour had taken place through the south and east of the UK.
As of 2018, they continue to be the flagship of the SouthEastern railway network, and are very heavily used, even if they have a small premium applied to the ticket price.
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