Virgin Trains on Friday unveiled its new “Azuma” train for the East Coast route that it said will slice up to 22 minutes off East Coast rail travel and make four-hour Edinburgh to London journeys “the norm.”
The trains will initially reach speeds of up to 125mph and Virgin Trains announced a cross-industry working group including Network Rail to investigate the potential for the East Coast route to enable 140mph.
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.”
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 £40 million 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.”
The Azumas are being made by Hitachi at its rail vehicle manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Hitachi has a long and proud heritage producing top quality, high-speed trains, going back to 1964 when our first ‘Bullet Train’ entered passenger service in Japan.
“We are, therefore, thrilled to be delivering the trains which from 2018 will transform the journey experience for tens of thousands of Virgin Trains customers travelling between London and Scotland along the East Coast.
“We are doubly proud that these new trains for the East Coast are being manufactured right here in the UK, creating some 730 new long-term jobs, engineering careers and apprenticeships.”