A HITACHI Azuma train carried passengers on the East Coast Main Line for the first time today.
The new Intercity Expresses should have started running last December, but the already postponed launch was further delayed by continuing problems with electromagnetic interference, which affected signalling and safety-critical CCTV systems.
The problems have now been resolved on part of the East Coast Main Line, and the first Azuma entered service today by working the 11.03 from London King’s Cross to Leeds, returning to London from West Yorkshire at 13.45.
No date has been set for introducing the new trains on the section between Edinburgh and Doncaster, but LNER is hoping it can start running them on services to Newcastle and Scotland by the end of the year.
The Azumas have better acceleration than the trains they are replacing, but a full timetable taking advantage of this is not expected to start before December 2020.
LNER managing director David Horne 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.’
Azumas are also due to start running the daily LNER services to and from Hull tomorrow (16 May), replacing an HST.
Meanwhile, full-length HSTs are set to be retired from Great Western Railway on Saturday, because Hitachi Intercity Expresses have been replacing them on the main lines between London, south Wales and south-west England. The new trains will be going further afield in the far south west from Sunday, when they will be introduced on services to Newquay.