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High hopes for boost to town as Germans sign train contract

By Ashford Herald  |  Posted: July 04, 2013

  • first choice: Cllr Graham Galpin says Ashford 'best placed'

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MILLIONS of extra rail passengers could be heading for Ashford thanks to an agreement allowing German passenger trains to use the Channel Tunnel.

Train company Deutsche Bahn has been granted an operating certificate to use the tunnel and plans to run services between London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

The services are estimated to start running in 2017, and transport bosses in Kent are working to make sure Ashford International station is able to receive the trains in the hope that it may benefit from the route in future.

Kent County Council's principle transport planner for rail Stephen Gasche said Deutsche Bahn will concentrate on providing services between cities to begin with and that a service to Ashford would depend upon perceived demand.

He added: "Once the service beds down, they are open to the possibility of a stop in Kent."

He said that Ashford is currently on its own spur of the international high speed route, with signalling appropriate for Eurostar trains but not for other international services.

He added: "The project we are now engaged in is to have the Ashford spur converted so it has international signalling. It is a project incredibly important for all international operators in future."

Ashford Borough Council's economic development manager, Andrew Osborne said: "The critical bit will be about whether there will be local demand for the service. To try and secure that service, Ashford can provide information on what we are looking to do in the borough.

"It's about Ashford's profile as an international station and selling the opportunities there are around Ashford."

ABC's cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Graham Galpin said: "I firmly believe there should be a stop in Kent and it should be in Ashford.

"I think there are significant benefits to be had, but it is difficult to quantify that benefit at the moment.

"We all know Ashford is very special and part of the reason for that is its connectivity."

Groupe Eurotunnel estimates that Deutsche Bahn services will bring an additional three to four million new passengers through the tunnel each year.

Deutsche Bahn has revealed that its planned services will run three times a day from London to Brussels and then to Frankfurt via Cologne or Amsterdam via Rotterdam. The journey time from London would be five hours to Frankfurt and four to Amsterdam, with new InterCity Express trains running at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour.

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