The Anonymous Widower

How Long Would An IPEMU Take From St. Leonard’s To St. Pancras International?

If an IPEMU is going to be used between St. Leonard’s and St. Pancras International station, there are two possibilities.

  • A 110 mph IPEMU based on existing Class 387 trains.
  • A 125 mph IPEMU based on a purpose-built Aventra. Ian Walmsley stated in the April 2016 Edition of Modern Railways that a 125 mph Aventra is possible.

This compares with the 143 mph and 100 mph speeds of a Class 395 train on high speed and classic lines respectively.

For this estimate, I will make the following assumptions.

  • St. Leonards takes four minutes longer than Hastings.
  • The baseline time from St. Pancras to Ashford is 38 minutes in a Class 395 train.
  • Times on the high speed section are in proportion to the train speed.
  • The baseline time from St. Leonard’s to Ashford is 46 minutes in a Class 171 train.
  • All trains on the unelectrified section are limited to 100 mph.

Times From St.Leonards to Ashford

The Class 171 train takes 46 minutes, but it is only a benchmark, as few would go to Ashford and then get on a Class 395 train on High Speed 1.

The Class 395 train and the IPEMUs would be quicker as they would save a couple of minutes at each of the typical five stops, because of their faster acceleration.

Two minutes a stop would save ten minutes.

Times From Ashford to St. Pancras

Doing a simple calculation based on train speed gives the following times.

  • Class 395 train – 38 minutes
  • Class 387 IPEMU – 48 minutes
  • Aventra IPEMU – 43 minutes.

Times from St. Leonards to St. Pancras

Adding the two times together gives.

  • Class 395 train – 74 minutes
  • Class 387 IPEMU – 84 minutes
  • Aventra IPEMU – 79 minutes.

With Hastings it will be four minutes less.

In Wikipedia, there is a section called Future for the entry for the Marshlink Line. This is said.

The line is strategically important, as electrification and junction improvements would mean that High Speed 1 trains could travel directly from St Pancras International to Hastings. Amber Rudd, Member of Parliament for Hastings, has campaigned for electrification works to start by 2017. The aim is to reduce times to London from Hastings to 68 minutes, and from Rye to under an hour. This would require remodelling Ashford International station so the existing Marshlink line could connect to HS1, installing power systems, and adding a passing loop at Rye, all in addition to requiring new trains.

I think that the aim of 68 minutes from London to Hastings is a modest one, but as my crude estimate was only six minutes longer, I think the 68 minutes is totally attainable, especially as my times from St. Leonards to Ashford are just based on current timings and taking off a couple of minutes for each stop.

But if the Marshlink Line could be significantly improved, then time reductions of several minutes could well be achieved.

March 29, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,


  1. So what are the relative costs of these options? I.e. what is the minimum up front spend that would enable the politicians to claim that we are “On track for a 68 minute commuter service to Hastings / st Leonards”.

    Comment by matbest | March 30, 2016 | Reply

  2. The various track work like new junctions, removal of level crossings etc. will be done for all options, as it is necessary anyway for safety reasons and to improve the service. I also think some work has been done and I suspect there is already a budget for it

    A new five car Class 395 train, would cost upwards of five million.

    The Class 387 trains already exist on Thameslink and as Class 700 trains arrive, they will be moved to sidings as they have nowhere to go except c2c, who need two or three. But there are 29 of them, with another 28 due to be built before the end of 2016.

    All they need is to be fitted with a battery pack, which Bombardier designed for the prototype based on a Class 379, which is effectively a slightly earlier version of a Class 387 train in a different colur scheme, with a different interior. Bombardier have said that at present they are testing three other forms of battery and the one they used for the prototype, to see what is best.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to read that Bombardier are testing KERS, as used successfully in Formula One and on hybrid buses in Gillingham.

    A Formula One train would surely be a more sexy beast, than a battery train.

    I have read somewhere that a battery pack costs about a quarter of a million.

    Remember that a Class 387 train is dual-voltage so it could charge the batteries west of Hastings and at Ashford on third rail and on High Speed One using the overhead. So absolutely no electrification would be required.

    Comment by AnonW | March 30, 2016 | Reply

    • So how many 387s would they need to upgrade to provide a half hourly service from Bexhil stopping at St leonards, Hastings, Ore, Ashford, Stratford, and SP. Perhaps just six? With 8 carriages per train, and a battery pack on each carriage, I guess we are looking at north of £25m for the total upgrade cost? – Or does one battery power a whole train?

      What are the major track works? Level Crossing, Track Doubling, Ashford connection, Signalling. This list sounds like it might swamp the £24m for the train upgrading.

      Comment by matbest | March 30, 2016 | Reply

      • One four-car train needs one battery. To run as an eight or twelve, may need a few software and operational changes, but I suspect that Bombardier have that in hand.

        As to infrastructure, probably the only thing that needs to be done is make sure the line can handle trains of the right length. Electrostars have selective door opening on the Overground, so Bombardier have that in their box of tricks. A lot of the needs for four-car trains are covered because the line can accept four-car Turbostars, which are the diesel sister to an Electrostar.

        Common sense, says that there could be a phased introduction, with say a four-car Class 387 running between Ashford and Brighton, using batteries on the Marshlink. West of Brighton, there are issues as the service is run in places by Class 313 scrapyard specials. So don’t be surprised to see Southern running a South Coast Express from Ashford to Portsmouth and Southampton in the future.

        Passengers would change trains in the the early stages at Ashford, but once the track was updated, they could run into St. Pancras. The question hsas to be asked if St. Pancras has enough capacity, but would Network Rail have suggested it, if there wasn’t. I doubt it!

        The other Southern line that could be run with Class 387 IPEMUs is London Bridge to Uckfield. Do that and Southern wouldn’t need any diesel trains, so they could go to operators like Northern Rail, who need them.

        The Uckfield Branch has just been lengthening platforms for twelve cars and that appears to be nearly finished. Would Southern really want to couple up six Class 171s, when they could do that with three Class 387s. Just think of the reliability with six trains in formation. What do they do if number 2 dies? Electric trains are more reliable and are probably easier to isolate and drag back to London Bridge.

        Comment by AnonW | March 30, 2016

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