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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Train smashes speed record
Eurostar train
The Eurostar train broke the record in Kent
A Eurostar train has broken the UK rail speed record by travelling at 208 mph.

The target was reached on part of the soon-to-open first section of the 5.2bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link in Kent.

Hours earlier, the train had smashed the previous record by reaching 186mph in the Nashenden Valley area, near Rochester.

The 14-carriage train then set the new record by making further test runs between Ashford and Fawkham Junction, in north Kent on Wednesday.

Eurostar easily smashed the speed record of 162.2mph set in December 1979 by British Rail's Advanced Passenger Train.

'Landmark event'

Eurostar's communications director Paul Charles said before the attempt: "This will be a landmark event.

"Breaking this speed record will be a celebration of civil engineering and a major step forward for industrial innovation in the UK."

High speed train milestones past and present

Wednesday's speed trial was part of safety testing being carried out on the 1.9bn, 46-mile first section of the link, which runs from Folkestone on Kent's south coast to Fawkham Junction.

The 320-metre-long train was driven by Alan Pears, 35, from Staplehurst in Kent, who has been a driver for Eurostar for eight years and was picked from among 11 volunteers.

When it opens on 28 September, the first section of the track will slice 20 minutes from journey times to Paris and Brussels, with Paris being reached in two hours 35 minutes and Brussels in two hours 20 minutes.

The second, 24-mile stretch of the link, from north Kent to St Pancras station in London, is due to be finished in 2007.

When the full link is completed, the London-Paris time will be cut to two hours 15 minutes and London-Brussels to two hours.

APT train at Crewe - courtesy of Railway Age/ apt-p.com
An APT set the previous UK rail speed record on 20 December 1979
The fastest passenger train running in the UK has previously been the Inter City 225 - which takes its name from its top speed of 225 km/h (approximately 140 mph).

The APT's record speed was set on a test run and never subsequently matched during its short, ill-fated time in service with British Rail.

The new record was verified by experts travelling in two special laboratory coaches on the 600-tonne train.

They included engineers from French rail company SNCF, who were testing the train's interchange with both the track and the overhead power system.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"This has been a long time coming"

Train tests could top 200mph
07 Jul 03  |  Kent
Rush hour delays on Eurostar
27 May 03  |  London
Passengers may lose out on Link
10 Apr 03  |  England
APT - The lean machine
07 Dec 01  |  UK News

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