''the fastest rail travel times in the UK''
Introducing The UK's Javelin Train
Sleek looking bullet trains have always presented iconic images of Japanese life and culture, and for UK rail travelers they've been creating the same images on the Southeastern rail routes. The UK version of the bullet train is known as the Javelin, and on 12th Dec 2008 the first UK Javelin train raced into London on its inaugural high speed rail journey.
These good looking, dark blue liveried Javelin trains - also known as Class 395 - offer the fastest domestic service rail travel in the UK and went into full passenger service in December 2009 on the High Speed HS1 rail route.
Built by Hitachi, the 140mph maximum speed Class 395 6-car Javelin train completed the first rail journey from Ashford in Kent to London St Pancras in 37 minutes.
Hitachi are also building the IEP train which will be introduced on other rail services from 2017 onwards, and the two types of service combined bring fast train services to various routes across the UK from and to stations like Kings Cross and Paddington in London.
Routes & Timetables
From the first scheduled service in December 2009, there have been 29 Javelin trains in service with Southeastern rail on the Kent to London (Ashford to Ebbsfleet/Dartford and St Pancras/London via Stratford) domestic rail service and High Speed 1 Channel Tunnel Rail Link routes. The timetables page gives more detail.
Southeastern rail lease the trains from HSBC Rail, and were formed by a joint venture between Go-Ahead and Keolis. For Southeastern, the Javelin route forms part of a near 750 kilometre rail network serving locations to the South and South-East of London.
You'll find full details of routes covered on the dedicated Javelin routes page.
The popularity of the service to commuters in the further Southeast towns can be gauged by the fact that Dover to London journeys have reportedly increased by close on 50% since the trains first started running.
And the benefits don't stop there - the whole of the conventional SouthEast rail service has got a boost because longer distance commuters have migrated to High-Speed, leading to an increase in capacity on outlying routes too. Although counties further North of London don't yet have their own High Speed rail, travellers to those too have also seen a growth in numbers. HS2 is of course planned for future build but for now - with the Javelin terminating at St Pancras and the close-by Kings Cross - UK rail commuters have an improved way to get from the South to many other destinations in the North. Journey numbers from Kent to Northern UK stations increased by over half a million in 2014.
Commuters on the Javelin experience a reduction in previous journey times from around 83 minutes to 37 minutes for the Ashford to London trip. That reduction in travel time extends to stations off the high speed line too, with London to Ramsgate and London to Dover travel times seeing reductions of around 53 and 50 minutes respectively.
Of course there's an additional price to pay for speed - fares for journeys that run over the section of line that's able to let the trains run at their highest speed will often see an upward bump in the cost of a trip. This is understandable of course. Clearly the investment required to run - and potentially extend - the service is huge. For example, the Bexhill and Hastings extensions would involve the electrification of the Marshlink Line which runs from Hastings to Ashford and Rye - at a cost of around £100 million.
The cost of tickets does not seem to have deterred rail travellers though. During 2014 over 10 million journeys were completed using the service - an average of about 34000 per day on weekdays - resulting in a record 5th year and seeing an increase in the stations covered in the Javelin timetable. Southeastern also introduced a coastal loop rail service to increase opportunities for other south coast travelers looking for a fast route into and out of London. Services to Ramsgate and Dover were extended to run through Deal and Sandwich to complete the loop.
You'll find the latest Southeastern high speed timetables here, or visit the Javelin train timetables page here on Javelintrain.com for train time details and ticket options.
As of the end of 2014, it was reported that up to 93% of services were pulling in to their destination within five minutes of planned arrival time. The English winter weather does not appear to be wreaking its normal havoc on Javelin routes, with the power supplied to the trains via overhead electric supply as opposed to the third rail 'under train' power that drives traditional routes.
Service During The UK Olympics
Starting on 27th July 2012 -officially the first day of the Olympic Games - the Javelin train got to use its 340 seat capacity on the Olympic Javelin Train service that promised to speed spectators from St Pancras to the main Olympic Games site in Stratford - East London in just under 7 minutes. The service performed admirably and quickly became an integral part of the overall games experience for spectators.
With this promise of speedy, effective travel to the London Olympics site it's rather apt that the trains had been named after British personalities who are easily associated with speed.
Sports fans also got the chance to ride what became known as the Paralympics Javelin train service, when the trains got their chance to perform cross London high speed duties once again. One of the Paralympics Javelins is named after the Paralympic star and London 2012 ambassador Marc Woods.
Train spotters will be well advised to get a brand new pair of Sony video binoculars to capture one of these Javelin trains on video. They'd make a great sight when viewed in 3D hurtling towards you on the tracks at top speed.
With their Japanese heritage, it wouldn't be surprising for future enhancements to the Javelin train experience for travelers to include the addition of some on board entertainment. It's possible that interest in anything related to entertainment or online interests could see 3D TV screens or PCs built in seat back units, giving travelers the chance to watch TV, movies, listen to music.
Javelintrain.com will bring you the latest Javelin Train news describing developments on these exciting fast rail services.
The Future Of High Speed Javelin Services
There's no denying that the Javelin train has been a success. We've seen the increases in rail travel numbers throughout the SouthEast and further into the North and other UK regions as a result of its introduction. We've seen the increases in capacity on direct Javelin routes and other conventional track routes feeding UK towns.
Even the London Underground has seen benefits as the network has grown. Run down areas such as Stratford have experienced considerable redevelopment. Ebbsfleet City has seen further announcements on its development plans.
It would appear that the introduction of high speed rail services does have a number of positive impacts, not only for travelling times, but delivering knock on benefits to capacity in general and reliability all round, and not to mention the somewhat intangible - but nevertheless - positive impacts on the economy as a whole. Economic growth brings rising house prices and desirability for those areas where the buying price of housing is more affordable. Strong rail connections to those areas are a vital piece of the puzzle.
All of which is a pointer to the potential future success and growth of High speed rail throughout the UK, and in particular the current Javelin train service.
Will we see the Javelin itself operating on other routes outside of the Southeast UK? That's debatable at this point. The next fast train service introduction is most likely to be the IEP, or Intercity Express Program - although there were some reports in early 2014 of track tests using Javelins to be carried out near Melton in Leicestershire.
For these track tests, Network Rail had submitted an application to allow the tests to run, given that the Javelins are the closest model currently running to the new IEP train models to be introduced from 2017 onwards. Who knows? We could yet see the now familiar Javelin running on scheduled services into other regions of the UK.
As far as the current routes go, it's clear that the actual high speed section of the Javelin route has some potential to be extended. The trains do spend a considerable amount of their running time on conventional rail tracks, which limits the speed at which they can operate.
History & Timeline
• December 2015 sees the 6th anniversary of the inaugural passenger trip
9th October 2015 - Extension of HS1 from Ashford to Bexhill via Rye and Hastings proposed at public meeting.
• 3rd Feb 2015 - Javelin visits Hastings and Eastbourne stations for the first time in support of campaign for improved rail services to local towns
• 11th September 2014 - Southeastern Rail given the OK to continue running HS1 services until June 2018. Oyster cards introduced for commuters between St. Pancras and Stratford.
• July 27th to August 12th 2012 - The Javelin train service was diverted from its normal High Speed Rail duties, becoming the key to fast cross-London travel for the duration of the 2012 London Olympics.
• May 2011 - Hitachi have announced plans for bidding to win a new contract for designing and maintaining the high speed fleet to run on the planned £34bn high-speed line (HS2) between London, Birmingham, and the North of England
• Successful full service introduction, with scheduled Javelin Train high speed services between London and Kent - 13 December 2009
• Last of the 29 train order delivered - August 2009
• First timed run of the service that will carry 25000 Olympic visitors per hour - 27 July 2009
• Trial service commences St Pancras to Ebbsfleet - 27 June 2009
• First journey Kent to London - Dec 12 2008
• Javelin Train reaches 150mph on first test run - 3rd Oct 2007
• Javelin Train on public display - 2nd Oct 2007
• First train delivered from Japan - August 2007
• Order placed with Hitachi for 28 new high speed trains (29th added later) - 2004
Javelin Train UK