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Britain Launches First High-Speed Train Service

Locations in this article:  London, England

Javelin trainTrainspotters and Olympics fans all over the UK are celebrating the imminent launch of the UK’s first high-speed train service, which will ferry passengers between London and southeast England at twice the speed of regular trains.

The train, dubbed the Javelin, is part of an effort to improve transport in advance of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The service will originate at St. Pancras Station in London and will make three stops: Stratford (in east London); Ebbsfleet; and Ashford (in Kent).

The Stratford station is near the site of the as-yet-unfinished Olympic stadium. Ashford is home to the Eurostar International Train terminal, and is also a transit hub for popular tourist destinations such as Canterbury, Dover and Sandwich.

At 140 miles per hour, the train whisks passengers between London and Ashford in 37 minutes rather than the usual 1.5 hours, cutting the journey time by more than half. The London-to-Stratford leg will only take seven minutes.

The UK has high-speed trains, but is it All Aboard for American High-Speed Rail? Or learn more about the Olympic Games in our Olympics section.

The train’s high speeds are possible because it runs on newly-built dedicated tracks which do not have curves or junctions, and it does not have to share track with slower regional and commuter services.

Javelin train frontThough the Javelin is not as fast as the Eurostar, which averages 186 miles per hour, it is  fast enough that Southwestern, the company which operates the service, decided against offering a mobile refreshments cart for fear that passengers would not have enough time to eat their snacks before arriving at their destination.

The Javelin will start accepting paying passengers on June 29. Travelers will pay a premium for the extra speed, but not much. It will cost about £8 ($13.25) more than the equivalent slow-speed service to Ashford from either Charing Cross station or Cannon Street station in London.

Lord Adonis, the UK Transport Secretary, said that the launch of the Javelin represents a “seminal moment” for the UK, which now joins the ranks of countries that boast high-speed trains such as France, Germany and Japan.

Adonis hopes the success of the new service will spur the development of a second high-speed line between London and the West Midlands and north of England. All the high-speed trains, both current and future, are intended to ease transit and spur economic development in the areas they serve.

By Karen Elowitt for

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