LONDON, 18 JUNE 2009 - Hitachi today celebrates the first high speed passenger journey of its Class 395 between Ashford International, Ebbsfleet International and St Pancras International. At the invitation of Southeastern, members of the media and key stakeholders were welcomed on board the Hitachi-built trains today to experience the new trains first hand. On time delivery and the successful completion of 4,000 miles ‘fault free’ running has enabled Southeastern to launch a limited ‘Preview’ service, starting 29 June, nearly six months early. Full passenger services are expected to commence in December 2009.

The Hitachi 395, which is a new design, utilising technology from Hitachi's world famous ‘bullet trains’, is built to run on the new High Speed 1 (HS1) line as well as the existing DC network in Kent. It will reach speeds of up to 140 mph on HS1, faster than any other domestic trains operating in the UK.

The new train is Hitachi's first rolling stock in regular service in the European market. Hitachi has so far successfully delivered 18 sets to Ashford. The remaining 11 have been shipped from Hitachi's factory in Japan on 13 June and are due to arrive in the UK in August 2009. Once in service, the trains will be maintained at Hitachi's purpose-built Train Care Centre in Ashford.

Alistair Dormer, General Manager at Hitachi Europe Rail Group, said: “Today's launch is an important milestone for us, and our first opportunity to fully demonstrate the calibre of high quality rolling stock that Hitachi can offer the UK as well as the rest of Europe. We are immensely proud to be part of a project that is helping to shape the development of the UK's rail industry and infrastructure”.

Charles Horton, Managing Director of Southeastern Trains, commented: “The launch of the UK's first high speed rail link marks the beginning of something very special for rail passengers. Throughout the project, Hitachi Rail Group has consistently justified the good reputation it has, setting excellent standards for delivery along the way. We look forward to a long and successful partnership in the future”.

Hitachi's other current project with Southeastern, the Class 465 traction replacement programme, is progressing on schedule, following the successful handover of the first prototype unit in March. The replacement traction system will improve reliability of the units by a factor of 10. Modification of the full fleet of 97 trains is due to be completed by April 2010.

Wayne Jenner, Engineering Director, Southeastern said: “We expect the modifications to virtually eliminate traction failures within our fleet, and our drivers have already noticed significant improvements to the operational handling of the early modified units.

The partnership we have formed with Hitachi is helping us to meet our goals with minimal disruption to normal services. We have been thoroughly impressed by Hitachi's efficiency, and its ability to work within the tight deadlines that we have set for this project”.