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New Olympic Javelin Trains Wobble Like Jelly… at 140mph

BY Boon Koh
Published 9 September 2010

Last year, Boris Johnson launched, with lots of fanfare, the new high speed rail link from St Pancras in central London to the Kent suburbs of Ashford and Ebbsfleet. However, Southeastern has today admitted that there was a wobbling issue with the trains, especially when it was traveling at the lightning speed of 140mph.

The Hitachi-manufactured trains were meant to be the UK’s answer to catching up with other advanced nations with high speed rail, such as France with its TGV and Japan with its bullet trains.

These Southeastern Railway javelin bullet trains use the same track as the continental Eurostar trains, which can travel at speeds of up to 186mph. The problem arises because for part of the journey, the “Olympic Javelin” trains use purpose built high speed track, but halfway through they have to switch to conventional tracks at Ashford and Ebbsfleet. The train suspension system could not cope with the change in track, especially at speed, and the trains therefore wobbled and shook, scaring passengers on board the train, especially at high speed. The problem is similar to a car having bad suspension going on uneven roads.

A Southeastern spokesman had the cheek to claim “considering this is a brand new train, it’s more of a teething problem”. Considering the trains cost £9m each and were launched more than a year ago, one would have hoped that Southeastern had gone back to Hitachi demanding a fix as soon as possible. Still, the spokesman reassured that there were “absolutely no safety issues at all”, so I guess in the meantime, those with a tendency to get nausea or movement sickness should avoid the high speed train from St Pancras to Ashford.

  • Tom West

    Although the trains have a top speed of 140mph, they don’t run at more than 125mph in normal operation. Bit of a waste, really.

  • http://thelondoneer.blogspot.com The Londoneer

    I’ve travelled on it from Stratford to Kings Cross – I don’t mind the wobble because the sense of speed as you shoot down that tunnel into town is exhilarating (and a bit terrifying at the same time!)

  • Tom West

    It doesn’t do 140mph. It only runs at 125mph in normal operation – the 140mph top speed is reserevd for when it’s running late.