HS2

31.10.18

Still no date given for Azuma rollout on ECML by DfT

The DfT still has no answer for when the long-awaited Azuma trains will begin running on the East Coast Main Line, the transport minister told the House of Lords today.

Baroness Liz Sugg, appointed to the DfT role in October last year, said she was “not able to give a definite date” on the rollout timescale, prompting further concerns about the new fleet of rolling stock.

In September, reports surfaced that progress to introduce the new Class 800/801 Hitachi Azuma trains had been slowed to due problems arising with the trackside equipment; reports that, at the time, Hitachi Rail Europe MD Karen Boswell told RTM were “teething problems that will be solved.”

Today, Baroness Sugg said: “My Lords, I am happy to give some more information on the timings. The first trains were due to enter service in December this year, but London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has recently announced that these will not be introduced until early next year.

“There remain challenges relating to electromagnetic capability, ORR approvals and train design. Of course, this is disappointing for all involved, but when introduced the trains will provide more seats and faster journeys. As I said, the full rollout of the east coast fleet is still scheduled for completion in 2020.”

When queried by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering when the rollout of the full route from London to Edinburgh for the Azuma fleet would take place, Baroness Sugg said: “I am afraid that I am not able to give a definite date. We are trying to introduce the trains as soon as possible, but there remain issues that we need to work through.

“LNER has said that it hopes to start introducing the trains early next year. On my noble friend’s point about King’s Cross, we are carrying out essential works on King’s Cross to replace the expired track and signalling to ensure that we can see the full benefits of the east coast main line enhancements.”

Baroness Sugg added that she was “unable to guarantee” that services from Lincoln to London in the new Class 800/801s would be introduced in May 2019.

She said: “I know that that will also disappoint the people of Lincoln because those extra services will enable more people to visit that great city.

“However, I can absolutely reassure my noble friend that both LNER and the government are committed to more trains to Lincoln and we will deliver them as soon as possible.”

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Image credit: PA

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