On 16 May Selby experienced the benefits of a £5.7Billion new train replacement project started in 2011. The new AZUMA trains are smoother, have more seats, more room and accelerate faster than any other train running in Britain. The first service from Hull via Selby to London started on 16 May with the train stopping in Selby at 07.34. Passengers on board included Councillors Ian and Judith Chilvers going to London for a meeting with Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP.
On the train to London Ian and Judith met David Horne, Managing Director of LNER who explained the new features of the train. The trains are bi-modal which means that they can run either under their own power or from overhead electric power. While talking to David Horne the train joined the East Coast mainline where power switched seamlessly from self-powered to overhead electric power. On the East Coast Mainline the acceleration out of stations was noteworthy, more along the lines of an aircraft on a runway than a 9 coach train.
Cllr Ian Chilvers said the sleek streamlined design made a big impression on him when the train approached Selby Station. On boarding the train Cllr Judith Chilvers said that the open, light and spacious feel of the train made her feel welcome and immediately comfortable.
The speed of the train to London for most of the journey was 125mph and this was reached very quickly after the train left a station. David Horne said “We have 65 of these new trains on order and the first 12 have been delivered. This is one of the first to enter service. The others are being used for driver training and will be entering service over the coming weeks.”
The AZUMAS on the East Coast Mainline will gradually replace all the 125 HST trains that were first introduced in 1975 and the Intercity 225 electric trains that were introduced in 1989. AZUMA means East in Japanese, a perfect fit with them operating on the East Coast Mainline. While the trains are of Japanese design they are made in a new specially built state of the art factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. While the train is built by Hitachi 70% of the components are made in the UK.
In their meeting with Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP Ian and Judith Chilvers gave Andrew an account of their experience of the train, along the lines of an account by mystery shoppers. The introduction of the new trains had been a personal responsibility of Andrew Jones at the Department for Transport and he gave Ian and Judith a lot of background information about the project and the way it will transform rail travel on the East Coast Mainline. Services will be faster, more reliable and trains will be able to include more station stops. The new trains are just one part of a much wider multi £Billion investment in our railways and Selby is going to be one of the first towns to benefit. Later this year Hull trains will introduce their own AZUMA service to London, Trans-Pennine Express are introducing brand new trains and so are Northern Rail. Indeed, on the way to London new trains for Northern Rail were seen in Doncaster and will soon be introduced into service.
The upgrade of Selby Station was also discussed and Andrew Jones said that the quality of the proposal and the support from Selby District Council had helped the bid for funding to succeed. A date for doing the work has not yet been set but the request was made that Selby should be one of the first stations to be upgraded out of those that have had funding allocated. The new AZUMA trains each have four dedicated wheelchair spaces with power points and adjoining companion seat. The combination of station access and AZUMA on-board facilities transforming the experience for passengers who rely on wheelchairs.
In summarising the AZUMA project Andrew Jones said “The Government’s £5.7bn investment in Azuma trains is a critical component in our ongoing work to improve journeys for customers. They will modernise and transform services for customers along this route, delivering more space and more seats as well as faster journeys.
As with every rail project the impact across the UK extends beyond the rail network. I am particularly proud that these trains have been built in the North East at Hitachi’s £82m state of the art factory at Newton Aycliffe”.