The Azumas offer faster acceleration than LNER’s current trains, but Warwick Dent told us there would not be immediate scheduling changes in terms of route speeds. That is likely to come with the new timetable in December 2021, when the company can be sure the whole new fleet will be in place.
A key difference for passengers will be efficiency on the route, Dent added.
“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve spent in our service delivery centre trying to deal with train failures,” he said.
“In March we had a train break down south of Peterborough that resulted in another 22 trains being cancelled. You can imagine the level of disruption that caused.
“For me, having the levels of reliability that a new modern train can bring is fantastic because we should be able to make that a thing of the past. You can’t just nip past a train like you would in your car, but modern trains – we call them ‘trains with a brain’ – have built-in contingencies so it’s very unlikely that they would be stranded. If something fails, you have a legacy built into the system that allows you to overcome that.”
The line proved difficult to operate for Virgin, which reported losses following lower than expected revenue and passenger growth, and high fees.
On the potential of raised ticket costs, Dent commented: “There are no plans to hike prices just because we’ve got a shiny new fleet. The growth of the business will be through the extra capacity we gain from the trains.
“We’re going from 45 trains to 65 trains, and it is the first time we’re seeing a new fleet introduced on the East Coast mainline for over 30 years. It’s long overdue. We will have more trains at our disposal to ensure customers get the service they deserve, in a modern, smooth environment.”