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New Azumas get inaugural Scottish Highlands run

Hitachi has run trials of Virgin Trains’ new Azuma stock in the Scottish Highlands for the first time.

The test comes as the operator prepares to introduce 65 of the new trains on Virgin Trains East Coast from December of next year.

Initial testing saw the stock journey north of Edinburgh to Inverness for the first time last Friday, before travelling back to a depot in Doncaster in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Following the successful test, rail minister Paul Maynard commented: “We want to put passengers at the heart of everything we do and the £5.7bn government-led investment in a new state-of-the-art fleet intercity trains is important step in achieving that.

“This test run is a key milestone in the introduction of the fleet on the East Coast Main Line and it will mean more space, more comfort and more reliability for passengers up and down the country.”

The first Azuma tests in Scotland occurred in August this year when Hitachi ran trains between London and Edinburgh.

When introduced it is thought the new fleet will reduce the journey between the two capitals by around 22 minutes, while increasing capacity at peak times into King's Cross by around 28%.

Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf – who wrote for RTM in October – said the testing was “encouraging” and moved the whole project a step closer to completion.

“The new fleet will offer cross-border passengers more capacity and the modern facilities we all now demand,” he added.

“The Scottish government’s £5bn investment in the rail network is making a real difference across the country and I know developments like this make train travel a more attractive choice across the north and east of Scotland. This, in turn, can help drive the modal shift to rail as a regular option we are all keen to see delivered.”

Hitachi is constructing the trains at its Newton Aycliffe factory in County Durham, and has also invested £18m in depots in Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh to ensure it can service the stock.

Andy Rogers, programme director for Hitachi Rail Europe, stated: “Our rigorous testing programme is moving apace ahead of the trains entering service next year. Over the next 12 months, passengers and enthusiasts will be seeing plenty more of our British-built Azuma trains testing in Scotland.”

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 across Scotland.”

Virgin Trains East Coast has been fraught with issues since Virgin and Stagecoach first took over operations and transport secretary Chris Grayling announced earlier this month that the end date for the franchise would be brought forward to 2020 – three years earlier than expected.

The operators will be replaced with the ‘East-Coast partnership’ a new public-private partnership model expected to be similar to the one announced for the next South Eastern franchise.

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Ian Watkins   19/12/2017 at 10:18

Increase capacity out of Euston????

PP   19/12/2017 at 10:36

When will they improve capacity on the Mark's Tey - Sudbury branch?

Andrew Gwilt   19/12/2017 at 10:41

RTM. Can you stop certain people including PP from commenting about the Marks Tey-Sudbury bullcrap please. It’s becoming more pathetic and it’s not worth it. I’ve heard that this Class 800 has reached Inverness. Could it even go as far as Wick and Fort William.

DP   19/12/2017 at 11:26

Why on earth would an 11 car intercity set need to go to Wick or Fort William, towns with fewer than 10,000 people served by 2 car DMUs?

Mark Hare   19/12/2017 at 12:50

Andrew - you've 'heard' that this Class 800 has reached Inverness? I've 'heard' that too - oh no wait - it's written in the article. So I assume the Azumas will be used on the Highland Chieftain between Inverness and King's Cross... I wonder how much that will reduce the current 7hrs 56mins running time?

ICN   19/12/2017 at 12:59

While much is said about the potential time savings "between the two capitals", it will be interesting to see how the ICTs perform beyond Edinburgh compared with an HST (3750hp compared with 4500hp for the same number of vehicles).

Steve   19/12/2017 at 13:05

At least the slow crawl up the 1:60 grades gives time to view the scenery. Progress after 40 years!

SPT   19/12/2017 at 14:13

Steve - that's if the seats are aligned to the windows of course.....

Andrew Gwilt   19/12/2017 at 15:49

Thanks for the sarcasm Mark Hare.

GW   19/12/2017 at 18:50

Let's hope that both EC and TPE seats are a lot more comfortable than the GWR one's, otherwise the journey will seem MUCH longer. Better seats would be putting the customer first.

Andrew JG   20/12/2017 at 10:35

Amazing photo of the Class 800 Azuma train with the hills and mountains in the background up in the north of Scotland. Stunning.

Lee Bishop   20/12/2017 at 13:00

Will the new trains be less cramped in Standard Class than the Pendolino sets in use currently on West Coast services

Lutz   20/12/2017 at 19:16

@Andrew Gwilt A case of the pot call the kettle black me thinks.

Kirkierr   21/12/2017 at 10:22

DP - with Caol and Inverlochy and Banavie, the Fort William area has a good deal more than 10,000 people and as well as, admittedly, a basic service provided by 2-car crappy 156s, it's also served by steam-hauled trains to Mallaig in summer and the Caledonian Sleeper all year round. Other than that, you're right enough. No chance of Azumas ever, though...

Andrew JG   22/12/2017 at 22:49

@Lutz. True.

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