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Ashford Welcomes Hitachi

The first of the ‘bullet’ high-speed trains set to slash journey times to London in half were unveiled this week at a opening ceremony in the presence of the UK Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP and His Excellency Mr Yoshiji Nogami, Japanese Ambassador.

The distinctive dark blue streamlined trains are part of a twenty nine strong £260m fleet which will be maintained and stored at Hitachi’s maintenance depot in Ashford.

The new generation of high-speed trains can reach speeds of up to 140mph and will begin operation in December 2009.

Abigail Raymond, Acting Managing Director for Ashford’s Future, the agency overseeing the area’s growth said: “We are delighted to welcome Hitachi’s investment and arrival in Ashford. The state of the art maintenance depot will create 100 new jobs and once again reinforces confidence in Ashford as an ideal place for investment and employment.

“With the introduction of high speed trains to Ashford meaning a journey time of 37 minutes to London in 2009, Ashford’s position in the geography of the South East will be radically changed.”

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said: "Today marks a major milestone in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link programme. I'm truly impressed to see this first train in the fleet that will run Britain's fastest domestic train service from 2009. It will transform the experience of commuters, provide a real spur for regeneration, and carry passengers to the Olympics on the Javelin service.

"This is all part of the Government's £5.8bn investment in the new High Speed Line, which will revolutionise journey times for domestic passengers as well as those travelling internationally.

"This is symbolic of the recovery and regeneration of Britain's railway - backed by sustained funding from both Government and the private sector."

Alistair Dormer, General Manager at Hitachi said: “Hitachi is delighted the first trains have been delivered to Ashford following the significant investment establishing our state of the art maintenance depot. The investment reinforces the town’s proud railway heritage dating back over a hundred years.”

Media Release 0308/07