UK-based train operating company Virgin Trains' new ‘Azuma’ locomotive has travelled for the first time to Scotland as part of a rail connectivity improvement programme between Edinburgh and London.
The maiden run was conducted by manufacturer Hitachi in preparation for the introduction of the 65-train fleet on the east coast route next year.
The new train features increased space for passengers compared to older models, and is expected to reduce the journey time between Edinburgh and London by 22 minutes to roughly four hours.
Virgin Trains east coast route managing director David Horne said: “The Virgin Azuma will deliver a step-change in services between Scotland and England, taking regular journeys down to just four hours.
“Having the train visit Scotland for the first time as part of testing is a really important moment and reminds us of the excitement it will bring to UK train travel when it is introduced into service.”
The Azuma fleet is currently under development at Hitachi’s £82m facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The Azuma train that conducted the initial test voyage was a nine-car bi-mode variant that can operate on both electric and diesel power.
Hitachi Rail Europe managing director Karen Boswell said: “Passengers and enthusiasts in Scotland will be seeing more of the Azuma trains in the coming months as part of our rigorous test programme.
“Our UK-built fleet harnesses world-famous Japanese bullet train technology, giving passengers on the east coast main line the very best in quality and reliability.”
The entirety of the Azuma fleet will be required to qualify in a test programme prior to beginning commercial service next year.
Virgin is introducing the new trains in conjunction with the UK Department for Transport.
Image: Azuma train on Royal Border Bridge, Berwick. Photo: courtesy of Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd.