Virgin’s state-of-the-art Azuma train made its inaugural visit to Sunderland and Lincoln this week as preparations to transform rail services gather pace.
The iconic train, which takes its name from the Japanese word for “east”, will be rolled out on Virgin Trains’ east coast from December this year, ushering in a new era of comfort and style for rail passengers.
The Azuma passed through Doncaster and Lincoln before finishing up in Peterborough in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The test-run by manufacturer Hitachi is part of a programme to prepare the east coast for the 65-strong Azuma fleet. The first of these will enter service in December as part of a two-year rollout programme, adding 25% more seats per service. The Lincoln timetable will see great improvements to the timetable as direct services to London increase from one to six a day.
The Azuma is set to be one of the most advance passenger trains on the UK rail network, able to accelerate faster than existing trains and providing more comfort and space inside.
Hitachi is building the new trains at their factory in the North East of England (Newton Aycliffe, County Durham), home to 1000 train builders including 50 apprentices.
Virgin Trains currently operates a daily Northbound and Southbound Lincoln service to London as well as a twice daily service to and from Sunderland.
David Horne, Virgin Trains Managing Director on the east coast route, added: “Azuma will bring a new era of style in long distance rail travel and we’re excited to see preparations gather pace that will help transform services for passengers in Lincoln, Sunderland and across the east coast."
Andy Rogers, Programme Director for Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Our rigorous test programme is moving apace ahead of the trains carrying passengers later this year on the East Coast main line. Over the coming months passengers and enthusiasts will be seeing plenty more of our British-built Azuma trains testing in Lincoln and Sunderland.”
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.
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.
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.
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