New fleet of trains will increase speeds and seat numbers on East Coast Mainline

The Virgin Azuma

The Virgin Azuma

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A new fleet of trains will cut journey times and increase seat numbers along the East Coast Mainline.

Virgin Trains has unveiled the first of its new fleet of trains in a ceremony at King’s Cross attended by Sir Richard Branson. The Virgin Azuma trains will come into operation in 2018, and along with reducing journey times, capacity will be increased by 28 per cent during peak time.

Whilst the trains will initially reach speeds of up to 125mph, Virgin Trains has today announced the creation of a cross-industry working group, including Network Rail, to investigate the potential for the East Coast route to enable their operation at 140mph.

Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “The state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains heading to Virgin will transform rail travel for passengers between London, the north east and Scotland. These new trains, combined with Virgin’s exciting plans for the franchise, will provide more services, more seats, and faster journeys, helping to place passengers at the heart of the railway.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said, “This is a hugely important moment for passengers on the East Coast. A line which has witnessed the historic Flying Scotsman and Mallard will now see passenger services transformed with the UK’s most advanced long distance trains. Our customers on the West Coast have already seen what Virgin can bring to train travel and how the Pendolinos have made a huge difference to speed and comfort. Our new fleet of Azumas will bring a similar transformation to the East Coast, and propel one of the UK’s most prestigious lines into the 21st century.”

The Azumas will accelerate more quickly than current trains, slicing up to 22 minutes off East Coast journeys and making 4hr London-Edinburgh journeys, and 2hr London-Leeds journeys, the norm. They will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than the current fleet.

They also will have lower emissions than the current trains.

David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on the East Coast, said, “Since Virgin Trains launched services on the East Coast in 2015 we have committed more than £40m to improving our existing fleet for passengers. As part of this we’re bringing in brand new interiors with new seats in both first and standard, new carpets and mood-lighting – a first for trains in the UK. I’m delighted that today we have been able to showcase how that transformation will continue, with the first of our brand-new Azumas alongside one of our existing spruced-up fleet. We’ve already celebrated the return of the restored Flying Scotsman to the route and now we are able to celebrate the stars of tomorrow, count down to 2018, and usher in a new era for the East Coast.”