The first in the fleet of brand new high-speed passenger trains to call at Ashford International was met on the platform yesterday (Tuesday 3 April) by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
The arrival of Eurostar’s new Siemens e320 class train on the 2.55pm service to Paris marks the culmination of a £10m project which includes the installation of new signalling equipment and adaptation of Ashford’s international platforms for the new trains.
Mr Grayling visited the town to see the completion of the multi-million work to future proof the station. The project has been delivered by Network Rail and backed by Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council, with funding coming from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since Victorian times delivering faster, more direct services and more comfortable journeys.
“This includes significant signalling and station upgrades to enable this new fleet of high speed international services to stop at Ashford, which will offer a massive boost to the local economy. And with the London to Amsterdam service starting this week it will also make international travel between here and the continent quicker and more convenient for travellers.”
Network Rail’s Route Managing Director in the South East, John Halsall, said: “This project is a perfect example of how the railway can play a strong role in the continuing economic development of the South East. Our partners have put their faith and investment in the industry to deliver this project, which will future-proof the town’s station and preserve its status as part of Europe’s high speed network.
“High Speed rail and links to Europe have given Ashford a huge boost over the past 22 years and we are pleased to be working with Eurostar and local authorities to keep that going.”
Mr Mike Whiting, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “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. I welcome the launch of the Ashford Spurs project, and the great travel opportunities to continental Europe that this will secure for the future of Ashford and the wider Kent economy.”
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “This multi-million pound investment in state-of-the-art signalling equipment at Ashford International Station will secure the long-term future of Ashford’s place on the European rail map. It is great to see another of Ashford’s Big 8 projects coming to fruition, ensuring that Ashford stays the UK’s International Town.
“These works have been completed on time and within budget and means the benefits to Ashford’s economy and its ongoing success will continue to be supported by direct rail access to Brussels and four of France’s five largest cities.”
Mike Cooper, Chief Executive, Eurostar said: “The modernisation of Ashford International will allow even more of our passengers to benefit from our state-of-the-art new fleet. Our e320 trains bring the ultimate in style and comfort alongside the latest in on-board digital connectivity for both business and leisure travellers.”