England

Work begins on Virgin Trains' East Coast Main Line fleet

Virgin Trains new Azuma train Image copyright PA
Image caption Work on the body shells for the new Azuma trains has begun in Japan

Work has begun on 65 new trains set to boost capacity and reduce journey times on the East Coast Main Line.

Virgin Trains' Azuma fleet will provide an extra 12,200 seats and cut up to 22 minutes off journeys.

Work on the body shells has begun in Japan, before the trains arrive in the UK to be built at Hitachi's factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

The introduction of the fleet will also see the launch of direct routes to a number of destinations.

Image copyright Hitachi
Image caption The body shells will arrive at Hitachi's facility at Newton Aycliffe from this summer

Virgin Trains East Coast managing director David Horne said: "We are very excited to be moving closer to the day when our fantastic new train comes into service.

"The arrival of Azuma in 2018 will mark another milestone on our journey towards totally transforming travel for our customers, and the work happening now in Kasado and beginning in the summer at Newton Aycliffe are important steps on that journey."

Azuma is the Japanese translation for "east".

Image copyright Hitachi
Image caption The Azuma train will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than current trains
Image copyright Hitachi
Image caption The new trains will come into service on the East Coast Main Line in 2018

The extra seats will increase capacity into London King's Cross by 28% during peak times.

Direct routes to destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield will be launched once the fleet enters service in 2018, and services to locations such as Harrogate and Lincoln will be significantly increased.

Up to 22 minutes will be sliced off East Coast journeys as they will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than current trains.

Hitachi Rail Europe managing director Karen Boswell said: "The new Azuma fleet will be a combination of Japanese design and British manufacturing.

"The trains are built using Japanese bullet train technology, world famous for its quality and reliability.

"We are proud that our Newton Aycliffe team, based a short distance from the East Coast main line, will work on pioneering trains used by millions of passengers."

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