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Eurostar is to launch a new direct service to the south of France from Ashford next year, further strengthening the Kent town’s high-speed connections to the Continent.
From May 1, passengers will be able to travel direct from Ashford to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille up to five times a week. The announcement means Ashford will boast direct services to France’s three largest cities – Paris, Marseille and Lyon – as well as Lille.
The news comes hot on the heels of recent rail use figures which place Ashford International Station in the top 6% of busy stations in Britain, with over 3.3 million domestic passengers a year.
And this latest boost to the town’s already excellent rail links follows a major new study* unveiled this month which shows that connectivity and ease of access to European markets has helped make Ashford the ‘preferred place for business in Kent’, in a poll of developers, investors, property experts and businesses.
The new route was revealed at a recent Ashford Borough Council meeting by Eurostar’s Head of Public Affairs, Pierre Delalande, who reiterated the operator’s commitment to Ashford International Station.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said the expansion of services would provide greater opportunities for leisure and business travellers, boost local tourism and leisure industries, and make Ashford even more attractive as a business location for companies trading with France.
“This is extremely positive news and reinforces the strategic importance of Ashford International Station as a driver for future prosperity within the borough,” he said.
The expanding town is at the heart of the South East’s transport network, already boasting unrivalled rail, road, air and sea links to provide businesses with easy access to 360 million consumers across Europe.
Ashford’s high-speed domestic rail service to London St Pancras, which marks its 5th anniversary later this year, takes just 38 minutes, while direct Eurostar connections mean that Lille is under an hour away, Brussels can be reached in 90 minutes and Paris in less than two hours.
The town is also easily accessible from the M20 and, just last month, the Government confirmed its decision to fund the long-awaited Junction 10a to provide extra capacity – a project described by Ashford’s MP, Damian Green, as “one of the most significant advances for Ashford in 20 years”.
The Port of Dover, the world’s busiest roll-on, roll-off ferry terminal, is 30 minutes away; London Ashford Airport, which embarks on a multi-million-pound runway extension later this year to open up new air routes to Europe, is 20 minutes away.
Cllr Clarkson added: “Ashford’s location is one of its most significant assets and the fact that it is incredibly well connected and accessible makes it a vibrant hub for businesses.”
Further details about the frequency and journey times of the new Eurostar service to Marseille will be released later this year and tickets will go on sale in December. For further details about Eurostar services from Ashford, go to www.eurostar.com. For more information about Ashford, visit www.ashfordbestplaced.co.uk. More local news at the Kent newsdesk and this Link for the Eurostar feature.
* Perceptions of Kent as a Business Location 2014, a study from investment promotion agency Locate in Kent – for details visit www.locateinkent.com
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