Nestling in the heart of Kent, Ashford is one of the country's fastest growing towns in England . With journey times from London by rail now less than 40 minutes and Europe's cities within hours via Eurostar, Ashford still manages to retain its rural appeal.
Ashford is in the center of Kent, and was one of the first towns in Kent that drastically changed into a highly developed town with modern standards. Ashford International was opened on 28 February 1996 and first operated trains from France terminating at Waterloo, London. Now trains terminate at St Pancras International in London. The town also has an airport with regular flights to France.
Eurostar high-speed trains running from Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille (Europe), Calais (Fréthun) and Brussels (Zuid-Midi) stop at Ashford International station. Passengers travelling by Eurostar to the UK from Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille (Europe), Calais (Fréthun) and Brussels (Zuid-Midi) stations undergo UK passport/identity card checks in France/Belgium before boarding, rather than on arrival in the UK. The UK passport checks take place after the French/Belgian passport/identity card exit checks in the stations. However, UK customs checks take place on arrival in the UK.
Passengers travelling to France/Belgium from Ashford International go through French passport/identity card checks in the station before boarding the train, whilst selective customs checks take place on arrival in France/Belgium following disembarkation.
Ashford International is also served by domestic trains from several major London stations (see below). Ashford International station was re-opened on 28 February 1996 and first operated international trains departing from Waterloo, London. The station was the first stop in England on the Channel Tunnel rail link, allowing trains to link from the UK directly to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel.
In 2007 a new high-speed rail line was installed at Ashford International called High Speed 1. All International trains now depart from St Pancras International railway station in London, which was reopened in 2007 to replace all services previously operating from Waterloo, London. In 2009 Ashford International train station further improved its domestic train services with the launch of Britain's first high-speed domestic trains to St Pancras International, London and Ebbsfleet International, Kent.
In 2007 St Pancras International reopened and replaced all services previously operating from Waterloo, London. Trains operate each hour direct from St Pancras International via Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International stations, operating frequent train services to Brussels, Calais, Paris, Disneyland Paris, Moutiers, Avignon, Lille and Bourg St Maurice.
It is thought that Ashford originates from an original settlement established around 893AD, which became large enough to have a mention in the doomsday book, listed with a church and two mills under the name "Essetesford" in 1086. Ashford officially became a market town in 1243 and by 1600 had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock.