Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has welcomed the first LNER Azuma trains calling Middlesbrough station, as part of critical driver training.
The station’s existing Platform 2 has been extended by 75 metres to accommodate the Azuma trains, as part of the first phase of a £34m station upgrade.
LNER will be introducing a Middlesbrough to London service in December 2021.
In advance of that new route, week-long driver training is now being carried out to ensure the smooth operation of the new service once it opens to passengers.
With the platform extension completed, work now turns to the next phases of the station improvement scheme, including major customer service improvements - including the opening up of the dilapidated station undercroft to provide a new entrance into the station subway, as well as newly-refurbished shops and office units.
Upgrades will also be carried out to the road to the front of the station, improving access between the station and town centre.
A further phase will see a new Platform 3 built to the north of Platform 2, increasing train capacity within the station.
Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Now that we’ve delivered the extended platform at Middlesbrough station, it’s great to see LNER moving forward with getting their drivers trained so we can give local people the service to the capital they’ve been crying out for.
“This is even more important as our businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and start to once again visit major cities such as London, Manchester and York on business, securing opportunities and helping them to grow and create good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people.
“The improved connection will also help drive forward investment from the capital into our region as we continue to shout about all of the benefits of being based here, including the UK’s largest Freeport just a few miles down the road.
“Big and small, we’re driving forward with upgrades across the network in all of our boroughs so we can give people the more reliable, faster services that they deserve.”
David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, added: “Thanks to investment in Middlesbrough station, we are working to introduce an inaugural Middlesbrough-London service from December 2021, and a regular service in the coming years, to better connect the heart of the Tees Valley with the capital.
“I encourage all interested parties to comment on the proposed East Coast Main Line timetable public consultation that is currently under way.”