Problems encountered during extensive testing have revealed issues with LNER’s new fleet of Azuma trains.
These problems are serious enough to mean these Hitachi trains may not enter LNER service in December as originally planned.
Industry magazine RAIL reports that ORR (The Office of Rail and Road) will not authorise any more Class 800/801 trains [LNER’s Azumas] until newly identified safety issues have been addressed.”
A spokesperson for ORR told RAIL, “We can confirm that we have paused the granting of further authorisation to place Hitachi iEPS [LNER’s Azumas] in service. The reason for this is the inter-car connectors and the possibility they could be used as a ladder to climb on the vehicle roof.”
“Hitachi has made some modifications on trains before they entered service with GWR [Great Western Railway]. We are writing to the company to ask for further controls to be put in place.”
(It must be noted that these Hitachi trains now being operated by GWR out of London Paddington are similar to the LNER Azumas).
In statements both LNER and Hitachi say they are working closely with Network Rail (who controls the infrastructure) but neither will now confirm a definite date for service entry.
LNER had intended (as had predecessor Virgin Trains East Coast) to start Azuma services on December 4.
LNER has no fewer than 65 Azuma trainsets on order. Initially they would operate over the ECML (East Coast Mainline) between London, Leeds and Hull.
Anglo-Scottish services were expected to follow in March 2019
And this isn’t the only problem the Azumas face. Last month the BBC reported that these sophisticated trains were causing “electromagnetic interference to older signals and points in the north of England.”
Currently Hitachi and Network Rail are working on a solution for the above.
Any delay in service entry would be a blow to LNER. Its existing trains are life-expired and suffer technical issues from time to time which affects the robustness of ECML operations.
Indeed, as Business Traveller reported in August, LNER has already withdraw a number of services to ensure schedule reliability.
Business Traveller will keep you updated with Azuma developments and their dates for service entry.