Golf fans visiting Kent including for this summer's Open Championship - are set to enjoy super-fast travel courtesy of the same rail network in place for the fast-approaching London Olympic Games.
Tourists from all over the country, including London, will enjoy even quicker journey times to the 'Garden of England' thanks to HS1, the high-speed line that serves the Kent coast and which will also ferry passengers to the Olympic Park in 2012.
The hi-tech rail infrastructure is also set to carry an 'Open Special', operated by Southeastern, to take golf fans directly to the picturesque seaside town of Sandwich, location for the Open Championship at Royal St George's Golf Club from July 14-17, 2011.
The journey from St Pancras International in central London on HS1 will take just 80 minutes - slashing previous journey times by 55 minutes - leaving just a short walk from Sandwich station to the Open venue.
Thanks to these high-speed rail services, the Channel Tunnel rail link to Continental Europe and recent improvements to key roads, such as the M2 and M20 motorways, tens of thousands of tourists from both the UK and Europe are expected to enjoy golf breaks in Kent in the months both before and after the Open - and which are available through www.visitkent.co.uk, the county's official tourism website.
Golf enthusiasts can choose from more than 100 magnificent courses - including the illustrious 'Regal Golf Coast' venues of Royal St George's, Prince's, Royal Cinque Ports, Littlestone and North Foreland clubs as well as the highly ranked London Golf Club and Chart Hills - and explore Kent's many historic and maritime attractions before relaxing over some quality Kentish fare.
Royal St George's is the only Open Championship venue in the south-east of England and the closest to London, and this year's tournament in Kent is expected to attract record crowds likely to top 200,000.
For The Open, Southeastern will operate daily, half-hourly services from St Pancras International - including connections from the new Olympic Park at Stratford, Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Canterbury - during the four days of the event, with 50,000 golf fans expected use the service. Adult return fares cost £38.20.
To ensure golf fans from both the UK and across the world fully enjoy their trip to Sandwich, Visit Kent, in partnership with Southeastern and Arriva Buses, will be offering a range of special family-friendly deals, including:
• 2-for-1 tickets - half-price admission to key tourist attractions in the region
• Kids for a Quid - for five to 15-year-olds when accompanied by an adult
It is anticipated the return of the Open Championship to Kent after an eight-year break - following Ben Curtis' triumph in 2003 - could boost the county's economy by more than £70 million.
Sandra Matthews-Marsh, Chief Executive of Visit Kent, said: "We are pleased visitors to Kent, to either watch the Open Championship or simply enjoy a golf break, will be able to reach their destinations in super-quick time and benefit from the same advanced rail network infrastructure in place for the London 2012 Olympic Games."
Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport & the Olympics and MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, flagged off the first trial run of the St Pancras- Sandwich service and commented: "The high-speed train service makes it a lot easier for people to enjoy what the Kent coastline has to offer, especially golf fans."
For more information on events in Kent, visit www.visitkentgolf.co.uk. For details on high-speed train services to Sandwich visit www.southeasternrailways.co.uk.