LNER reveals when new Azuma trains will enter service - but North East passengers will have to wait
A start date has been revealed for new high-speed trains to begin operating on the East Coast Main Line.
But passengers in the North East will have to wait for their first taste of the Azuma trains, which are being built by Hitachi Rail at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
The new trains will enter service on May 15 - five months later than planned - but only on the stretch of line between London and Leeds.
The London North Eastern Railway (LNER) fleet is modelled on the Japanese bullet train, and will cut journey times by accelerating faster than existing rolling stock.
It was due to be launched in December 2018, but this was delayed due to a series of issues, including their compatibility with Network Rail's signalling equipment, safety tests, staff training and new timetables.
The announcement of a launch date follows major work to update the rail network's equipment and technology.
Publicly-owned operator LNER said the trains have been through "rigorous testing" by Hitachi Rail, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.
Azumas will initially be used on the London King's Cross-Leeds route, before being rolled out to the rest of the LNER network, which stretches from London to Inverness and Aberdeen, in the coming months.
LNER managing director David Horne said: "This is what customers up and down the country have been waiting for, and represents a monumental milestone for rail travel.
"We've worked very hard alongside our partners and suppliers to reach this point, and I look forward to giving all our customers an excellent experience every time they travel with us."
Hitachi Rail's managing director Karen Boswell said: "Passengers on the East Coast Main Line will soon be able to enjoy a fleet built in the North East of England harnessing Japanese bullet-train technology.
"Our British train factory has sourced parts from across the country to build the Azuma trains, which herald a new era for this famous route."
Rob McIntosh, a route managing director at Network Rail, said: "We're absolutely delighted that passengers will soon be able to travel on the new Azuma trains and we look forward to them reaping the benefits.
"A huge amount of work has gone into reaching this significant step and we have worked extremely closely with both LNER and Hitachi on this."
LNER says Azumas will have improved Wi-Fi, power sockets at every seat, and more space for legs, luggage and laptops all round. The fleet will eventually comprise 65 of the trains.