The Anonymous Widower

Options For High Speed To Hastings

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how high-speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

Before I list the options, I’ll list a few facts and questions about the current service to Hastings, the various lines and stations.

Ashford International Station

This Google Map shows Ashford International station.

Note the Marshlink Line goes off the map to the East of the two small roundabouts at the bottom.

The biggest factor that needs to be considered is that some form flyover or dive-under may be needed so that trains can run between the Marshlink Line and the two platforms on the North side of the station, where Highspeed services to and from St. Pancras International call.

Will All Highspeed Services Using The Marshlink Line Stop At Ashford International Station?

Consider the following.

  • Passengers might like to go between places on the South Coast, like Hastings and Brighton, and Europe, by changing at Ashford International station
  • If a voltage change were needed, Ashford International station is already used for this purpose.

I would think it unlikely that services would not stop at Ashford International station.

Class 395 and Class 80x Trains

The Class 395 trains and the various forms of Class 800 trains are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

The Class 395 trains have the following features.

  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on DC Lines
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling.

The Class 800 and Class 802 trains have the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • 25 KVAC only.
  • 5- and 9-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1 (Stated in Modern Railways)
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling (assumed)

The only difference between Class 800 and Class 802 appears to be the size of the full tanks and manufacturing site.

I would think it unlikely, that Hitachi could not produce a Class 80x train with the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • 100 mph on DC Lines

The trains could even have a Class 395 style interior.

Looking at the Class 395 and Class 80x trains, I suspect that these trains could be built, so that they could automatically couple and uncouple with each other.

This coupling ability would be important.

  • Hastings and Thanet services could couple and uncouple at Ashford International.
  • Class 80x trains could be used instead of Class 395 trains for operational reasons.
  • It would make it easier to rescue a stalled train.

There is also this document on the IEP Trains web site, which is entitled Technical & Build Specifications Of The IEP Trains, contains a lot of useful information.

  • Five-car electro-diesel trains have three power units.
  • Nine-car electro-diesel trains have five power units.
  • Electric trains have a small generator that can be used to slowly move a train stranded by overhead power failure to a safe place for passengers to disembark.

Nothing is said about batteries, but Hitachi have run battery trains in Japan.

I would be very surprised, if the A-train family was not designed, so that it could incorporate batteries, when the technology has been sufficiently developed

The Current London  To Hastings Timings

Fastest timings I can find are as follows.

  • London Cannon Street to Hastings – 1 hour 48 minutes
  • London Charing Cross to Hastings – 1 hour 51 minutes
  • London St. Pancras to Hastings – 1 hour 36 minutes, which a change at Ashford International
  • London Victoria – 2 hours 1 minute.

I think the surprising time is the one with a change at Ashford International.

It takes 37 minutes between St. Pancras and Ashford International and 40 minutes from Ashford International to Hastings, but passengers are allowed nineteen minutes to change trains.

Could Timings On The Marshlink Line Be Improved?

The Marshlink Line has a maximum operating speed of just 60 mph, whereas the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton has an oiperating speed of 90 mph.

Other improvements are needed to improve the timings and oiperation of the line.

  • Removal of a couple of level crossings.
  • Provision of a passing loop at Rye.
  • Some platform lengthening to handle the longest trains that would use the line.

It doesn’t appear impossible to reduce St. Pancras to Hasting timings by several minutes.

Are More Class 395 Trains Needed For Other Routes?

I ask this question, as if they are, then surely a combined order for new trains  would be better value.

The Various Options

I shall now look at the various options mentioned in the article in turn.

Option 1 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC

This would cost between £250million and £500million.

It would allow the current Class 395 trains to work through to Hastings and as far as Brighton or even Southampton if required.

Voltage changeover would take place at a convenient station, such as Ore.

But how would various groups react to 25 KVAC catenary being strung up all over Romney Marsh?

Option 2 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC

This would cost between £100million and £250million.

As with Option 1, it could use the current Class 395 trains.

Option 3 – Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains

Class 802 trains could be an interesting option.


  • According to the Modern Railways article, Class 802 trains would have the same 140 mph performance, as the Class 395 trains on HS1.
  • Both trains are Hitachi A trains.
  • Class 802 trains would run on diesel between Ashford International and Hastings.
  • Class 802 trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • Three trains would be needed to provide an hourly service to Hastings.
  • A crude estimate gives that one six-car Class 802 train would cost around £12.5million.

I think this option has a big advantage in that if it were possible to run twelve-car trains from St. Pancras to Brighton via Eastbourne, Hastings, Ebbsfleet International and Stratford International stations, the route might offer valuable alternative routes.

Option 4 – Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

Either of Class 395 or Class 801 trains could probably be fitted with batteries with sufficient range to take the train between Ashford and Hastings.


  • Both trains would have 140 mph performance on HS1.
  • Trains would run on batteries between Ashford International and Ore.
  • The Marshlink Line is not the most taxing of railways, with only six stops.
  • Trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • To ensure sufficient battery power to bridge Hastings to Ashford, trains could if necessary reverse at Seaford or Brighton.

As with Option 3, it has the advantage of providing an alternative London to Brighton service.


All options require the following to be done.

  • Create an efficient connection between HS1 and the Marshlink Line.
  • Improve the operating speed on the Marshlink Line.
  • Remove a couple of level crossings on the Marshlink Line.
  • Create a passing loop at Rye.
  • Perform some platform lengthening.

As Options 1 and 2 require electrification and cost more, I would feel they are unlikely to proceed.

The choice between Options 3 and 4 would depend on what Hitachi offer and what the required number of trains cost.

Option 3 based on a Class 802 train would definitely work and could probably be proven with a test run of one of the GWR or VTEC Class 800 prototypes.

But these Class 800/801/802 trains are designed so that the diesel engines can be removed, when they are no longer needed. So could Hitachi replace the diesel engine with a battery pack charged at either end of the route on the 25 KVAC of HS1 or the 750 VDC of the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton.

It’s all about selling trains and a company that had a 140 mph or 225 kph high-speed electric train, that could do perhaps 25 miles or 40 kilometres on batteries, would have a valuable addition to their product range.



May 8, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,


  1. Great post!

    The Kent route study states “The choice of rolling stock will be made by the Department for Transport and the winning South Eastern Franchise bidder”.
    A bid containing a purchase of three 802s could be about to land! And the regeneration of the Hastings and St Leonard’s area could really take off.

    Who could be putting these bids together?

    Comment by matbest | May 13, 2017 | Reply

  2. I think that the bid can be more sophisticated than just three Class 802 trains for Hastings. I’ve always believed that a South Coast Express linking Southampton to Ashford via Portsmouth, Brighton and Hastings would be a very profitable route and much of it could be a 100 mph line, that bypasses London.

    One thing that would help Hitachi’s bid, is if Class 395 and Class 802 trains can be automatically coupled together. A 395/802 pair could come to Ashford at 140 mph, with the 395 going to Thanet as now and the 802 to Hastings.

    Hitachi are certainly the key to what happens and whatever they come up with will be what the train company will use.

    Unless of course, Bombardier come up with something better, which I doubt would appeal operationally to the franchise operators.

    As to who puts the bid together, it is noteworthy that Mitsuit have got involved in Greater Anglia, where I’m certain, that batteries on trains will be involved.

    With my engineering hard-hat on, I would definitely say, that a solution for Hastings is on the way, but that it might be part of a bigger project.

    Comment by AnonW | May 13, 2017 | Reply

  3. A High-speed commuting route that splits at Ashford and goes to Thanet and Hastings? Call it the Regeneration Express.

    Comment by matbest | May 13, 2017 | Reply

    • I suspect that a lot of the reasons for the design of the current HighSpeed service is to minimise the number of paths required into St. Pancras on HS1 Running two tph which split at Ashford into \Thanet and Hastings may be better use of paths and trains.

      I certainly think, there’s some innovative ways to design the HighSpeed service, so that stations like Rye, Hastings, Dover get two trains per hour to and from St. Pancras.

      Comment by AnonW | May 13, 2017 | Reply

  4. Brighton is now an employment hub, with house prices to match. If workers could commute in from HGS/SLQ/RYE/BEX/EBN etc in under 45 mins then Brighton could continue to grow, doubling down on the cluster effect for high-tech workers.
    This clustering could bring more companies and work spaces down from London, relieving the stress on the Brighton to London link.

    Comment by matbest | May 13, 2017 | Reply

    • If the Mashlink Line had two tph, then the diesel service could be scrapped and perhaps two tph could be run using Class 377s between Ore and Southampton with a reverse at Brighton.

      It might be that the HS1 service went to Eastbourne and the Coastway service went from Eastbourne to Southampton. I would be a simple step-free walk at Eastbourne to change trains.

      Obviously, there are better ideas, but those bidding for the franchise will have a lot of fun!

      Comment by AnonW | May 13, 2017 | Reply

  5. […] I examined the options in full detail in Options For High Speed To Hastings. […]

    Pingback by Trains Along The South Coast « The Anonymous Widower | May 23, 2017 | Reply

  6. […] Options For High Speed To Hastings, I laid out the four possibilities of giving Hastings a fast service to St. […]

    Pingback by Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Highspeed To Hastings « The Anonymous Widower | June 29, 2017 | Reply

  7. Allegedly, the work needed to design a connection between the marshlink and hs1 at Ashford has been costed, agreed and financed.

    Money spent now avoids cockups later when its built.
    I wonder how detailed this design will be? – And how long it will take? Is the next step after this getting bids on the design? – or is it getting approval from somewhere else?

    Comment by matbest | November 27, 2017 | Reply

    • It’s pretty detailed in the Kent Route study. The Kent Route Study also says that the Class 379 train had a range of about 120 miles on battery power.

      Against that Rail Magazine says that for every hour of running on the battery the train needed two hours of charging.

      I’ve done the calculations and a Class 379 train with a 500 KwH battery could do Brighton to Ashford easily, if fitted with third-rail gear.

      The test train had a 500 KwH battery.

      Class 379 trains could create a South Coast Express to replace the Class 313 scrapyard spewcials and the Class 171 trains.

      Once the crossings are installed at Ashford, I’m sure Hitachi could produce a battery-powered Class 801 train, with enough stored power to cross the Marshlink.

      Comment by AnonW | November 27, 2017 | Reply

  8. […] should also be noted that in Options For High Speed To Hastings, I worked through the options needed to run high speed commuter services to […]

    Pingback by Could The Crewe And Derby Line Become A Much More Important Route? « The Anonymous Widower | June 26, 2020 | Reply

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