Japanese bullet-train firm starts building East Coast trains

Hitachi has begun work in Japan on 65 new trains for use on the East Coast main line.

Virgin Trains’ Azuma fleet will provide an extra 12,200 seats, increasing capacity into London King’s Cross by 28 per cent during peak times.

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

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.

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

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.”

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.”

Britain’s plans for High Speed 2 (HS2) suffered a setback in March when CH2M, an engineering firm granted £170m deal to develop a section of the route, withdrew after concerns over alleged conflicts of interest. 

Rail unions have also been critical of proposals to implement autonomous trains on UK lines citing safety issues. 

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