The Southeastern rail franchise, operated by Govia, the Keolis/Go-Ahead joint venture, received a boost with the introduction of the world's first regional high speed rail service, which started up in December 2009.
Today, 29 Hitachi Class 395 trains run on 90 kms of high speed rail shared with Eurostar between London’s St Pancras and 21 stations in outer London and the county of Kent. The trains can top 225 kms an hour, slashing commuting times by more than half. And they can run on the local DC network which means they can also serve Kent communities located off the high speed line.
High Speed has brought integrated transport another step further. Two stations were purpose-built on the high speed line: Stratford, the site of the 2012 London Olympics; which also links up with Docklands and the City, and Ebbsfleet, the site of a huge park-and-ride.
Throughout the three-year project, Keolis has relied on SNCF’s expertise in high speed rail to complement its expertise in commuter and intercity rail. For example, to prepare the bid a highly experienced team of experts from SNCF and Eurostar were brought together to map out the tasks that would need to be done.
And after winning the contract in 2005, SNCF high speed experts helped get the service up and running. This meant managing the interface between Hitachi and Southeastern. It also included training staff and drivers to make the transfer from classic to high speed rail.
The introduction of this revolutionary service allowed for the redeployment of personnel and rolling stock elsewhere on the network, improving territorial coverage everywhere in the Kent and East Sussex regions with the aim of increasing patronage across the franchise.
Keolis is keeping an eye on south east England to see how high speed rail impacts the lives of residents in such a densely populated region. What is learned there could be used in similarly crowded regions elsewhere.