Southeastern is to run a commemorative Poppy train ahead of Remembrance Sunday, taking paying passengers on a round trip from London, through Kent and Sussex to raise money for the Royal British Legion.
To mark 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, the train will display a new design wrap and make a rare journey along the East Sussex coast.
Departing from St Pancras International, the train will make its way out of the capital by way of High Speed 1, running via Ebbsfleet, Gravesend, Strood and along the picturesque Medway Valley Line to Paddock Wood and Tonbridge, continuing through the Downs to Redhill.
Here it will reverse, making an extraordinary sight as it passes Gatwick Airport and onward via Crawley and the idyllic Mid-Sussex route to reach the first Sussex terminus, Littlehampton.
After a 20 minute leg-stretch, the service will reverse, heading through Hove to Preston Park for a quick reversal before reaching Brighton.
The journey continues along the Sussex coast, passing Lewes and Polegate as the train approaches Eastbourne.
The train will pass through Bexhill to arrive at its final seaside resort, Hastings.
After another short break, the service will take a circuitous route back to London St Pancras via Battle, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Bat and Ball, Swanley, Chislehurst, the Lee Spur, Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Gravesend, Ebbsfleet and High Speed 1.
It is the third year Southeastern has teamed up with UK Rail Tours to run a special high speed service.
The journey will take place on Saturday November 12 and has been organised by Southeastern’s Andy Harding, High Speed fleet engineering manager and Kent Evenden, a driver manager High Speed.
Since 2014, they have dedicated their free time to help raise money for the Legion by organising the commemorative trips with help from Southeastern colleagues.
Andy said: “The Royal British Legion is a fantastic organisation. We wanted to create the Poppy train to raise awareness and money to help them support the Armed Forces community and their families.
“In 2015 we managed to raise more than £20,500 but this year we’re hoping to donate even more – all in aid of the Legion’s Poppy Appeal.
Kent added: “We’re going to have a special design wrap on the train (unit 395016) to commemorate the Battle of the Somme. What might not be obvious is the units are chosen because their number correlates to the year of the war, so last year a special design featured on unit 395015.”
Community Fundraising Manager London, Emily Fry for The Royal British Legion said: “We’re extremely grateful to Andy, Kent and their colleagues at Southeastern for their ongoing support each year to help the Legion in continuing to honour the memory of the fallen and support the future of the living.”
Since the first Poppy train, named after the Victoria Cross was launched in 2014 to mark the 100-year anniversary of World War One, Southeastern’s special Poppy services alongside other charitable efforts have raised nearly £46,000 for the Legion.
Tickets are now on sale now for the special one-off service and can be bought from UK Rail Tours.