Friday, February 12, 2010

Riding the Javelin

I mentioned that we had used the high speed train to Ashford from St Pancras International, and very impressive it is too.

The first impressions are not good though. The service is operated by Southeastern, and because it is fairly recent, signposting is not great. Indeed, on arrival, I headed instinctively for the East Midlands Trains platforms, signposted 'National Rail services', only to discover at the top of the escalator that there was now a sign for Southeastern pointing me back down.

So, if you're looking for the Southeastern services, head to platforms 11-13. To find them, head along the lower level until you see the National Rail ticket office, turn right, passing the Starbucks on your left, and you'll find a set of escalators heading up. Climb these, and the platforms will appear behind you.

The trains themselves are a bit spartan. Airline-style seating with the odd bank of four seats clustered around a table and a rather muted colour scheme give no real sense that, as commuter trains go, this one is rather special. That is, until the train pulls out.

It doesn't feel particularly quick, especially at night, until you can find something to compare it with. Luckily, the journey does parallel a main road, so you suddenly realise that you are leaving even fast-moving cars for dead, as the train reaches 140 mph with nonchalent ease. And suddenly, you're in Ashford, just thirty-eight minutes after leaving St Pancras. Very impressive.

Curiously, our train was pretty empty which, given that it was in prime commuting time (the 18.10 to Dover Priory and Margate) was unexpected. Yes, the journey does cost a bit more, but the time saving is huge, approximately one-and-a-half hours per day, and in terms of quality of life, it would be a factor. I do wonder whether the time taken to get from St Pancras International to the workplace is a factor though.

So, East Kent is very much more accessable than it was previously, and we're getting better value from High Speed One. That's almost certainly a good thing...

No comments: