Virgin Trains: Prime Minister visits Azuma!
Published on : Friday, May 6, 2016
The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has seen for himself the Virgin Azuma, the new train which will revolutionise services on the East Coast. The train is the first to be shown in a Virgin livery and was unveiled at King’s Cross by Richard Branson in March.
David Cameron was visiting Hitachi Rail Europe’s ‘North Pole’ train maintenance depot in West London. He was accompanied by the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Shinzo Abe.
Last September David Cameron officially opened Hitachi Rail Europe’s Rail Vehicle Manufacturing Facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, where the Azuma trains will be manufactured.
David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on the East Coast was at the event and commented, “The visit was a terrific chance to give the Prime Minister a taste of what is to come on the East Coast under Virgin Trains. We’re already investing tens of millions of pounds in new interiors and engines for our current fleet and are shortly going to introduce improvements to our on-board catering as well as launch additional Edinburgh-London services. The Azuma represents the next step – a completely new fleet which will revolutionise East Coast travel in 2018.”
Literally translated as “East” in Japanese, the Virgin Azuma pays homage to the new train’s lineage and to the East Coast route – a vital transport artery connecting Yorkshire and the North East with London and Scotland. Together with the West Coast franchise, it means Virgin Trains is in prime position to support the development of the Northern Powerhouse. With 65 trains providing an extra 12,200 seats for a new and expanded timetable, the fleet of Virgin Azumas will increase capacity into King’s Cross by 28 per cent during peak time.
Whilst the trains will initially reach speeds of up to 125mph, Virgin Trains has already announced the creation of a cross-industry working group, including Network Rail, to investigate the potential for the East Coast route to enable their operation at 140mph.
The new trains will also have:
- Faster acceleration: The Azumas will accelerate more quickly, slicing up to 22 minutes off East Coast journeys and making 4hr London-Edinburgh journeys, and 2hr London-Leeds journeys, the norm. They will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than the current fleet1
- New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield possible, as well as a big increase in through services to places such as Harrogate and Lincoln
- Greater comfort: The trains will have some of the best leg-room on the rail network, as well as ergonomically designed seats in both first and standard
- Virgin’s unique feel: Both the interior and the exterior of the new fleet with have that distinctive Virgin atmosphere
- Lower emissions: The trains will be lighter and more energy efficient, making them some of the most environmentally friendly in the UK
- Improved facilities: The trains will have faster and free Wi-Fi, an improved traffic-light reservation system2, power sockets for every seat and more overhead luggage space
- Buffet cars: An onboard shop is a key part of the experience for passengers
Notes to editors:
1) Azumas will reach 125mph in around 4 and a half minutes, compared with around 5 minutes 10 seconds for our current electric-powered trains and nearly 7 minutes for our current diesel-powered trains.
2) Traffic light reservation system: If the indicator is red, the seat is reserved. If the indicator is amber, the seat is currently available but has been reserved from a station later in the journey. If the indicator is green, the seat is available through to the train’s final destination.
The train that was visited by the Prime Ministers is a test train which has measuring equipment on board rather than seats. An artist’s impression of what passengers might expect on board the new trains is available on the Virgin Trains media site.
Virgin Trains highlighted improvements for the East Coast:
- Investment in current fleet – £16m on new engines, £21m on new interiors including new seats in standard, leather seats in first, new carpets and mood lighting
- New routes – Sunderland and Stirling now have new direct services
- Edinburgh – London improvements – 42 extra services a week from mid-May, meaning 22,000 extra seats with tickets on sale 24wks in advance
- Catering – new first class menus, Prosecco and ‘Hop on Board’ ale, and plans for at-seat ordering
- Lounges – refurbished first class lounges along the length of the route opening this month
- Wi-Fi – free Wi-Fi coming to our managed stations over the next few months, as well as free onboard Wi-Fi to all customers who book through the Virgin Trains (East Coast) website
- Fares – 10% cut in standard anytime long-distance fares to and from London, with those fares also frozen in the January fares review
- Parking – extra 500 spaces being provided at our stations as part of a £25m improvement plan, which will also see a 50% increase in cycle facilities
- New timetable – Virgin will introduce a completely new timetable including new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield, more frequent services for places like Bradford and Lincoln, faster regular journeys such as 2hrs London-Leeds and 4hrs London-Edinburgh and an increase in fleet capacity of 12,200 seats
- Accessibility – investment in disability improvements, including induction loop and tactile station maps
- Technology – interactive touchscreen information points at major stations, portable technology for staff and a move to m-ticketing and the end of the orange ticket
- Community engagement – apprenticeships for young people, graduate and ex-offenders programmes, dedicated communities fund, support for small businesses and regeneration in disadvantaged areas