Campaigners from the group “BringbackEurotrains” gathered at Ashford Station on Tuesday afternoon to greet the newly refurbished Javelin train, called the Rainbow, nicknamed “Trainbow”. This is the first train to be released back into operation, part of a £27 million contract to refurbish the whole fleet of 29 Javelins, work which is being done at the Hitachi depot in Ashford. The group hopes that it could form a new ‘local‘ service through Eurotunnel. “Next stop Lille!”
The new refurbishment is noticeably impressive with new carpets, ability to charge your laptops and phones and a more comfortable and updated look and feel. All this is an improvement as the Javelins came into service for the High-Speed line in 2009.
Why the Javelins?
So why is the bringbackeurotrains group interested in the refurbishment of Javelin trains?
Such is the desperation amongst some Kent residents about the situation caused by Eurostar not stopping here, that we have started to explore other options, such as a local-to-local connection (Ashford–Calais–Lille) and Javelin is one of them.
“Now that the Javelins are being refurbished, why not send some of them through the Channel Tunnel ?” asks Charlotte Mbali, one of the campaigners to get cross-Channel trains running again from Ashford Station. Her grandchildren live in Brussels, and the family feel the extra burden of having to travel via London St Pancras to queue for the Eurostar there. Like with other travellers they are having to spend more time and money, not to mention the added environmental impact of having to travel to London to get to Ashford.
“So much local government money was spent in upgrading the signalling specially for the new Eurostars at Ashford station only five years back – such a waste” comments Alex Bienfait.
Many Kent residents are distressed and inconvenienced by Ashford station no longer being international. With the campaign group is Keith Hillier-Palmer who launched a petition on the change.org website a few months ago to get the Eurostar to stop at Ashford again. He comments
“People are still signing the petition – even a few hundred signed today. It has reached over 29,600.”
Colère aussi à Calais
We understand that people in Calais also are furious that Eurostar no longer stops there either and they have to go to Lille to catch the Eurostar. So it is time to investigate local to local services – Ashford to Lille with a stop in Calais would take little over an hour. If travellers want to go to a metropolis – both Lille and Ashford have quick onward connections. But of course, also both places are hungry for the tourist-spend locally, French tourists coming to Canterbury for instance, or the English enjoying the forthcoming antiques market in Lille.
Maybe this is the time to do an operational and safety test of a newly refurbished Javelin train going through the Channel tunnel. That is why this small group were waving their banners on platform 6 at Ashford International station beside the Trainbow.