The Anonymous Widower

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks of the Ashford Spurs.

Not a new Kentish football team, but possibly one of the most important developments in Kentish railways in the last couple of years.

Eurostar’s Class 373 And Class 374 Trains

Eurostar are replacing their original fleet of Class 373 trains, with smart new Class 374 trains.

The Class 373 trains were built in the 1990s and were designed to run on both high speed and traditional lines and they had signalling systems to allow this.

Wikipedia says this about Class 373 Signalling Systems.

The class have multiple signalling systems, leading to a cluttered control desk. These include

  • Automatic Warning System, the British signalling system (induction-based), used in the Ashford area

  • Train Protection & Warning System, the warning system that supplements AWS, used in the Ashford area

  • Transmission Voie-Machine (TVM), used on lignes à grande vitesse, on Eurotunnel tracks, and on High Speed 1.

  • Contrôle de vitesse par balises, used between Paris Gare du Nord and the LGV Nord, on French lignes classiques and the HS1-connected throat around St Pancras. It is electro-mechanical with fixed radio beacons.

  • TBL, the Belgian signalling system (electro-mechanical), used between Brussels-South and HSL 1, Belgium.

Perhaps this is why multi-tasking is needed to be a train driver.

On the other hand, the Class 374 trains have just one signalling system, that can be used in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. And that is just for starters. Wikipedia says this about the operation of the two trains.

Eurostar International’s existing fleet of Class 373 “Eurostar e300” trains, which date from the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1993, cannot operate under the 15 kV AC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in Germany, most cannot operate under the 1.5 kV DC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in the Netherlands and they do not have sufficient space to install ERTMS signalling. Therefore, Eurostar cannot use its Class 373 units on services to these countries and the Class 374 was designed and built to go where the Class 373 could never go. The Class 374 has replaced around half of the Class 373s, with some Class 373s being scrapped in the UK after the introduction of the new trains.

Class 374 Trains And Ashford International Station

The one place, where the Class 374 trains can’t go on the existing network is Ashford International station, as the platforms for high speed trains are on a loop from the high speed lines, which go over the station on a flyover.

Consequently, services from Ashford to the Continent have to use the older trains.

The Track Layout At Ashford International Station

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the lines through Ashford International station.

Note how the two main tracks of High Speed One use a flyover to get out of the way of Ashford International station. The Ashford Spurs connect the lines through the two platforms to High Speed One.

The Ashford Spurs Project

The Ashford Spurs resignalling project will allow the new Class 374 trains to call at Ashford International station, when it is completed in Spring 2018.

Eurostar trains will stop at Ashford, as required by the number of passengers who want to use the service at Ashford.

At present, three trains per day (tpd) to Paris and one tpd to Brussels call at Ashford, as against to five and four respectively at Ebbsfleet International station.

I suspect that the Class 374 trains can execute a stop faster than the older trains, so I think we’ll see Ashford getting a much improved service to the Continent.

The Modern Railways article also indicates that there will be a lot more connecting services to and from Ashford station, so passengers between Thanet and along the South Coast to Brighton and even Southampton, wanting to go to and from the Continent, will use Ashford for convenience.

There will be a lot of collateral benefits to things like house prices in the far South-East of England.

I would also feel that the area, would be an ideal business base for someone supporting an International business, that needs quick access to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, London and Paris.

I believe that all the places I mentioned, will have fast direct trains to and from Ashford in a few years, with a customer-friendly frequency.


This project is reported to be costing less than five million pounds and it must be returning more than that to Kent.

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 19 Comments