Azuma trains launched by LNER on East Coast Main Line after five-month delay

New trains have been launched on the East Coast Main Line, five months later than planned.

Publicly owned operator London North Eastern Railway (LNER) said its Azuma trains will boost capacity and reduce fares.

A preview for rail industry executives, politicians and media was held at London King’s Cross on Tuesday, ahead of the first public service which will run from the same station to Leeds on Wednesday morning.

Sixty-five Azumas will eventually replace 45 LNER trains.

The word Azuma means “east” in Japanese, and the new fleet is modelled on the country’s bullet trains.

Each has up to 100 extra seats compared with existing rolling stock and will cut journey times through faster acceleration.

The interior of a standard class Azuma train carriage (LNER/PA)
The interior of a standard class Azuma train carriage (LNER/PA)

Other passenger benefits include 7cm of additional leg room in standard class, free Wi-Fi and electronic reservation displays.

Azumas will initially be used on the London King’s Cross-Leeds route, before being rolled out in the coming months to the rest of the LNER network, which stretches from London to Inverness and Aberdeen via the East Midlands, Yorkshire, north-east England and Edinburgh.

By the end of June around a fifth of LNER services will be operated by the new trains.

LNER managing director David Horne told the Press Association: “The new trains are really the start of the transformation on the East Coast route.

“They’re replacing trains which are 30 and 40 years old at the moment.

David Horne, managing director of @LNER, tells me why the new #Azuma trains are a significant improvement.

— Neil Lancefield (@NeilLancefield) May 14, 2019

“These trains will bring lower fares.

“On the Leeds to London route in the coming weeks we’ll be offering about 10,000 extra fares a week at the lower end of the price range – those fares that are £29 or less.

“That is us taking one of the key benefits of these trains – the extra capacity – and taking that in the form of cheaper fares for customers using the route.”

Azumas are built by Hitachi Rail at its factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

They are the same type of trains – Class 800 Intercity Express (IEP) – launched by Great Western Railway (GWR) in October 2017.

Their first scheduled GWR journey suffered a leak from an air conditioning unit and a 41-minute delay.

Azumas were due to be launched by LNER in December but this was delayed due to a series of problems, including their compatibility with Network Rail’s signalling equipment, safety tests, staff training and new timetables.

Major work to update the East Coast Main Line’s equipment and technology was required to enable them to operate passenger services.

Hitachi Rail managing director Karen Boswell said: “Putting trains into service is really complex.

“The balance of building new technology and working with the infrastructure is always very challenging.

“The brilliant thing is it’s in service today.”

Rail minister Andrew Jones said: “There will be more services, the experience on the trains will be better and each train will have many, many more seats.

“From a passenger perspective it’s a far better experience.”