London North Eastern Railway – or LNER – has begun the formal rollout of the new Azuma (Class 800/801) trains on the East Coast Main Line
In the first instance, the Azuma fleet will be assigned between London Kings Cross and Leeds and London Kings Cross and Hull. A total of 65 train sets will enter service (split in a mixture of 9 car formations and 2 x 5 car formations), replacing the existing 45 trainsets used by LNER.
The fleet will eventually run between Scotland, North East England, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and London.
The new trains will offer various facilities onboard including:
- Additional capacity of up to 100 seats extra per train
- A walk-up cafe/bar
- A new traffic light seat reservation system
- Onboard Wi-fi
- In-seat power sockets
- Extra luggage space
- Bicycle racks
- Accessible toilets
Passengers in first class will also get an improved layout and amenities including:
- Larger tables and reclining seats (in a 2-1 formation)
- USB and plug sockets
- Complimentary breakfast or two-course meal service (depending on the time of day)
With Leeds and Hull being the first destinations, they will spread further across the East Coast network, with Harrogate and Lincoln to follow. Further changes along the line
The Azuma trains are assembled in County Durham by Hitachi, as part of the Intercity Express Programme.
David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, said:
“The launch of the first Azuma trains is a truly momentous event for LNER and the communities that we serve.
“Setting new benchmarks in rail travel is part of our DNA, and the new Azuma trains are the next big step for LNER in making the customer experience the best that it can be. They will transform travel with improved reliability, greater levels of comfort and an average of 100 more seats on every train compared to the current fleet.
“From extra leg-room and improved Wi-Fi to being more environmentally friendly and accessible to more people, the Azuma experience is a real revolution in rail travel.”
Karen Boswell OBE, Managing Director at Hitachi Rail, said:
“Hitachi-built Azumas will truly transform the passenger experience on the East Coast mainline, offering extra seats, greater reliability and more journeys.
“Azuma may look like a Japanese bullet train, but underneath it is very British, with over 70 per cent of parts sourced from the surrounding areas of our factory.”
For some, they will miss the existing HST’s (InterCity 125/Class 43 High-Speed Speed trains) and loco-hauled trains operating currently. For the day to day traveller, there is much to like about an updated onboard experience, power at the seat and extra luggage space.
All things that are welcome in the passenger experience – even when travelling by train (which for some of the routes that LNER will operate the Azuma fleet – will be important, as they will serve Scotland eventually).
With time to mature from initial IEP design (which Great Western Railway operate), its a chance for the passenger to enjoy new trains to fill in the connectivity gaps that air travel misses.
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