Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 15:36 UK

Routes axed for high-speed train

A high-speed "Javelin" train
The new 140mph trains will run from Ashford to London

Some rail services are to be axed when new high-speed trains are introduced in parts of south-east England.

The launch of "javelin" trains on commuter routes in December will force the withdrawal of a small number of services, train firm Southeastern said.

They include Maidstone East via London Bridge to Cannon Street and Charing Cross. Other timetables will change.

The new 140mph trains will run from Ashford in Kent into London using the Channel Tunnel high-speed link tracks.

'Improved choice'

The Hitachi-built trains are expected to boost capacity on peak services by 5% and cut journey times to and from London's St Pancras station.

People travelling from St Pancras to the London Olympics site in Stratford in 2012 will be able to get there in seven minutes.

London to Ebbsfleet: 17 mins
London to Ashford: 37 mins
London to Canterbury: 59 mins
London to Dover: 69 mins

Southeastern said many services would be retimed but added "there will always be some people that the changes do not suit".

Managing director Charles Horton confirmed a "small number" of services would be withdrawn.

He said: "As with any timetable change, we will continue to review all of our services and make amendments where they can be justified."

Southeastern also said there would be around 200 extra trains every weekday.

Mr Horton added: "We believe many passengers will benefit from improved journey choices and from an increase of trains throughout the day."

Train campaigner Huw Whitethread said the high-speed rail services would be of little use to passengers in areas such as Maidstone and West Malling.

Routes axed for high-speed trains

He added: "The changes that they've made are disgusting frankly.

"For somewhere that is supposed to be the county town of Kent we should be getting more first direct services not losing the fast direct services that we already have.

"It is not just going to affect commuters it is going to affect non-commuters alike."

But the introduction of the high-speed trains was welcomed by watchdog Passenger Focus.

Tunde Olatunji, from the organisation, said: "Today's announcement brings us one step closer to what should in time prove to be a much better rail service for the vast majority of Kent, East Sussex and South East London passengers.

"The biggest winners will be those commuting into London from east Kent and coastal towns, where the improvement on current journey times will be very significant and the brand new trains very welcome."

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