28 August 2009


The great news is that Southeastern's final Class 395 'Javelin' was delivered to the UK from Japan on 17 August. 395029 came as part of the final trio, with sisters 395027/8 in the same shipment. They all joined the full 29-strong fleet of Javelins at their new depot in Ashford, owned by Hitachi.

They're scheduled to all enter service to a full timetable on 11 December this year, though a preview timetable has been in operation since 29 June, recording punctuality figures of 99.1%! This is an absolute doddle though, since they only share their line with Eurostar trains, and even then have no cross-overs or interaction with other rail lines.

The bad news is that once in regular service, Southeastern has announced that it's instructing its drivers not to operate them to their 140mph maximum speed unless the train is running late. Virgin's Pendolinos were built to attain a similar top-speed, but are limited to 125mph on the West Coast Main Line due to this being the maximum speed permitted by Network Rail. Southeastern's Javelins are running along High Speed 1 - a line that has a permitted maximum line speed of 186mph (300kph), and has trains frequently running at this speed along it.

So why is Southeastern choosing to limit its would-be headline-grabbling high-speed trains to the traditional 125mph? A spokesman said that this is to give a reserve in case of late-running and that this is common practice on high-speed lines in other European countries.

The preview timetable is extended to see trains operate on the traditional Kent rail lines to Dover and Folkstone from September and with this comes the possibility of late-running, hence the 140mph being kept in reserve, in order to help maintain the excellent 99.1% punctuality figure.

Southeastern are playing this all a little too 'safe' for our liking. Crank them up to 140mph on every occasion and bring the journey times down, attract more business passengers, make more money and invest in more trains! That's what the rail industry should be doing. We don't want to put all our eggs into one basket with the proposed High Speed 2! It may never happen! (GL)