Date for LNER’s Azuma introduction reset to 2019
LNER has confirmed that its Class 800/801 Azuma fleet will not enter traffic this year.
The Hitachi Intercity Express Programme trains had been due to start carrying passengers in December, but that has now been delayed.
LNER spokesman Karen Butler, speaking exclusively to RAIL on October 25, said: “We are introducing them in 2019. The reason is it will give passengers more confidence and we can prepare properly. There are several different issues at the moment, not one specific reason, and we do not want uncertainty.”
A Hitachi spokesman said: “Hitachi remains on track to hand over completed new Azuma trains to LNER in early December, so they can continue their driver and on-board staff training and readiness programme.”
Butler added that the operator was working towards type acceptance for the trains.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has suspended approval of the trains due to the design of the inter-car connectors ( RAIL 863) and issues with signalling ( RAIL 861).
Since August 1, the trains have been unable to operate in electric mode owing to interference with signalling north of York.
Eight trains are currently being used for training and testing on the East Coast Main Line, ahead of their introduction.
The initial plan was for the trains to be introduced on the Leeds/HullLondon King’s Cross routes, and Butler said that remains the case. Other routes will also be introduced next year, she said.
Asked how this would affect the existing LNER fleet, with the High Speed Trains needing to be withdrawn by the end of 2019, and the start of the cascade of Class 91/Mk 4s elsewhere, Butler said that those decisions still needed to be finalised.
Hitachi confirmed it is in discussions with ORR regarding the connectors, and is working closely with Network Rail on the signal interference.
A Network Rail source told RAIL that there is also signalling interference south of York, and that Hitachi has accepted that a trainborne solution is required. The plan is to design and install copper inductors under the motor vehicles, to reduce the electromagnetic currents by at least 50%. It is hoped that the first tests will be carried out in January.
LNER 800103 races over Egmanton Level Crossing (between Retford and Newark) on October 24, with a training trip. There are 65 Azumas on order, but their planned introduction into traffic from December has been delayed, with no new date given.