A TRAINBUILDER has started work on constructing its new fleet for the East Coast main line.

Hitachi Rail Europe has begun manufacturing London North Eastern Railway's (LNER) Azuma trains at its Newton Aycliffe base.

Bosses say the 65-strong Azuma fleet will provide LNER with thousands of extra seats and increase capacity into London King’s Cross by nearly 30 per cent at peak times.

Azuma is due to begin carrying passengers later this year along the East Coast main line, connecting London and Yorkshire, and from 2019 running in Scotland.

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Newton Aycliffe continues to go from strength to strength, now building three separate fleets to serve passengers across the country.

“Our pioneering Azuma trains, inspired by Japanese bullet trains, will transform journeys on the East Coast main line. By building them at Newton Aycliffe, we are supporting thousands of jobs with a strong British supplier base.”

David Horne, managing director of LNER, said: “We’re delighted that manufacturing has now commenced on Azuma in County Durham.

"Our customers can expect a fleet of high-tech, modern trains that will deliver more seats and space, as well as faster journeys.

"Azuma will play a key role in revolutionising travel on the east coast mainline, delivering first-class service as well as extra services for Bradford, Lincoln, Harrogate and Edinburgh."

The first wave of new trains being made at Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe factory entered passenger service in 2017 as part of the Government’s £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme.

The firm expects almost 300 North-East built trains will be in operation by 2021.

Last month, Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said Hitachi had missed out on "decade's worth of manufacturing" after it lost out on a £1.5bn contract to build a new generation of underground trains

The firm lost out on its joint bid with Bombardier to German firm Siemens Mobility, which will now have to build a new factory in East Yorkshire in order to build the trains.

However, Hitachi remains in the running for a £2.75bn contract to make trains for the HS2 high speed rail scheme, as part of a joint bid with Bombardier.