Virgin Trains announce new high speed trains for East Coast

Branson unveiling the Virgin Azuma, the first of their new fleet which will cut journey times on the East Coast Main Line. Picture:: PA

Branson unveiling the Virgin Azuma, the first of their new fleet which will cut journey times on the East Coast Main Line. Picture:: PA

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A NEW fleet of Hitachi trains which will cut most Edinburgh-London journeys to four hours were unveiled today as Virgin Azumas - Japanese for east.

They will run on the east coast main line from 2018, cutting trips by up to 22 minutes by being able to accelerate to the route’s 125mph top speed quicker than current trains.

Only one service, the 5:40am Flying Scotsman from Edinburgh to London, currently takes four hours.

Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec) - which is 90 per cent owned by Perth-based Stagecoach - will also operate the Azumas to Aberdeen and Inverness.

The train operator hopes they will eventually be able to reach their 140mph top speed thanks to line upgrades it will discuss with track owner Network Rail.

Vtec claimed the trains will have some of the best legroom on the rail network, along with ergonomically-designed seats in both first and standard class.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, who showed off a test train in its new livery at King’s Cross Station in London, said: “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.”

A Network Rail spokesman: “The new trains are capable of running at up to 140mph and we are working with industry partners to examine in detail the changes to track, overhead line and other infrastructure which would be required to allow them to operate at that speed.

“While the introduction of 140mph requires detailed work and funding, the improved acceleration and modern systems on board the new trains will allow journeys to be faster and more reliable from the first day the run on the line.”

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, which will assemble the trains in County Durham, 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 in the UK, creating some 730 new long-term jobs, engineering careers and apprenticeships.”

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