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New Azuma trains arrive at UK port ahead of passenger services starting later this year

Press Release   •   Mar 20, 2018 18:32 GMT

Virgin Trains’ on-board crew and drivers will use the new arrivals for training. Azuma trains will enter passenger service from December 2018 offering greater peak time capacity, faster and more frequent journeys.

New Azuma trains arrive at UK port ahead of passenger services starting later this year

  • Virgin Trains’ on-board crew and drivers to use new arrivals for training
  • Azuma trains to enter passenger service from December 2018 offering greater peak time capacity, faster and more frequent journeys
  • Hitachi building majority of Azuma fleet at their train factory in the North East of England

Two brand new Hitachi test trains arrived at Teesport (Middlesbrough) today after completing a two-month journey from Japan*.

The two five-cartrains will form part of Virgin Trains’ new Azuma fleet and will be the first used for training on-board crew and drivers.

Virgin Azuma trains will transform travel and customer experiences when they arrive on the East Coast Main Line from December this year. The fleet of 65 trains will provide an extra 12,200 seats, offer the potential to enable faster journeys and support a big increase in through services from London to places such as Bradford, Harrogate and Lincoln.

Customers can expect more comfortable journeys with increased legroom, additional luggage space and faster Wi-Fi.

Virgin Trains getting ready for new Azuma fleet

Virgin Trains staff will soon get a hands-on experience of using new Azuma trains. The two new Azuma trains which arrived at Teesport today will be used to teach on-board crew and drivers how to operate the trains when passenger services start later this year. Virgin Trains have already begun driver training using Azuma simulators at King’s Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh stations.

Aileen Jordan, Azuma Director at Virgin Trains on the east coast, said: “We’re excited to have reached yet another milestone with the arrival of these two trains and with them, the opportunity for our drivers and onboard crews to use these for training ahead of Azuma coming into service from later this year”.

UK train builder steps up Azuma test programme

Hitachi, the builder and maintainer of the new Azuma fleet, now have five Azuma trains for testing.

Passengers have already been catching glimpses of the new trains as Hitachi steps up its rigorous test programme.

Hitachi’s UK factory in County Durham will begin building Azuma trains this summer. The factory at Newton Aycliffe, situated a short distance from the East Coast Main Line, is home to 1000 employees, including 50 apprentices.

Hitachi has also built a new £80million train depot in Doncaster to maintain the new fleet.

Andy Rogers, Programme Director at Hitachi Rail said:

“We are proud to be building a fleet inspired by Japanese bullet-train technology here in the UK. Our comprehensive test programme is making great progress with the new trains performing very well on the East Coast main line”


*NOTES ON AZUMA MANUFACTURING*The two trains which arrived at Teesport are five-car hybrids, able to run on both electric and diesel power (Train numbers 800201 & 800202).

Hitachi builds test trains at its factory in Japan ahead of UK manufacturing beginning.


For more information, please contact:

Kaper PR on 0203 301 2086

Sam Fisk on 07713 697 727or at

About Virgin Trains

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK. The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested over £40m in our existing fleet, including £21m refurbishing interiors and £16m towards improving the engines of our trains. Customers can now benefit from 48 additional services between Edinburgh and London every week, and an extra 22 Saturday services between Leeds and London – a total of 1.74 million additional seats since May 2015. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

Virgin Azuma will revolutionise travel when it arrives on the east coast mainline from 2018. The fleet of 65 trains will provide an additional 12,200 seats and increase Virgin Trains’ capacity into King’s Cross by 28 per cent during peak time.

The new train reaches 125mph in around 4 minutes 40 seconds, compared with around 5 minutes 40 seconds for our current electric-powered trains and around 11 minutes for our current diesel-powered trains.

There will be more services connecting Bradford, Harrogate and Lincoln to London. Twenty-two minutes will be sliced off East Coast journeys. London to Edinburgh in just four hours, and London to Leeds in two hours will become the norm throughout the day.

Azuma will take customer experience to a new level and deliver all the comfort and style that Virgin is famous for: ergonomically designed seats throughout; some of the best leg room you’ll find on UK trains; free and faster Wi-Fi*; power sockets for every seat; superior onboard catering in First and Standard Class, including the Virgin Trains’ Foodbar; and a distinctive Virgin look and feel, inside and out.

Hitachi is building the Azuma fleet in the UK at its purpose built £82million facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, which employs 900 people, including over 50 apprentices.

Azuma is part of a £5.7bn investment by the Department for Transport in new inter-city trains.

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About Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd.

Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) is a global transport specialist with over 100 years of experience building pioneering trains, offering quality maintenance and developing innovative new technology. As a leader in rail we’re improving transport for passengers, connecting communities and helping to boost the UK’s economy.

Having delivered the hugely popular Javelin HS1 fleet in advance of the 2012 London Games, Hitachi is delivering major orders for new trains, with 281 due to be in service by 2021. The first wave of new trains is being made at our purpose-built factory in County Durham and will enter passenger service in 2017 as part of the UK Government’s £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme. With a proud reputation for innovation, Hitachi is at the forefront of using new digital technology to enhance passenger experience and enrich Britain’s railway’s heritage. Hitachi rail is growing rapidly and we’ll soon by more than 2,000 strong, based at 15 locations across the UK.

For more information about the company, please visit:

About Intercity Express Programme – East Coast

The state of the art trains, built by Hitachi in the North East, are part of the government-led £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme. The East Coast element, worth £2.7bn, will introduce 65 trains totalling around 500 new carriages offering improved capacity and comfort, and transform services for millions of passengers. As well as improving the passenger experience the IEP trains will boost the economy. Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe factory has created over 1000 new jobs, plus potentially thousands more job opportunities in the UK supply chain.