NORTH-EAST built trains have entered service on the East Coast Main Line five months later than planned.

The Azuma trains, which have been manufactured by Hitachi at its purpose-built factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, entered service on the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) yesterday.

The Northern Echo:

About 65 Azumas will eventually replace 45 LNER trains, which bosses say will boost capacity and reduce fares.

They will initially be used on the London King's Cross-Leeds route, before being rolled out in the coming months to the rest of the LNER network, which stretches from London to Inverness and Aberdeen via the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North-East and Edinburgh.

They are expected to be rolled out across the North-East by the end of the summer and by the end of June around a fifth of LNER services will be operated by the new trains.

Karen Boswell, Hitachi's managing director, said:"Putting trains into service is really complex - the balance of building new technology and working with the infrastructure is always very challenging.

"The brilliant thing is they have now entered service."

The Northern Echo:

LNER managing director David Horne added: "The new trains are really the start of the transformation on the East Coast route.

"They're replacing trains which are 30 and 40 years old at the moment, and these trains will bring lower fares.

"On the Leeds to London route in the coming weeks we'll be offering about 10,000 extra fares a week at the lower end of the price range - those fares that are £29 or less.

"That is us taking one of the key benefits of these trains - the extra capacity - and taking that in the form of cheaper fares for customers using the route."

Bosses say the trains have been through rigorous testing with engineers and technical staff from Hitachi, Network Rail and the Department for Transport to ensure they will meet the high standards LNER sets for outstanding customer service.

Azumas were due to be launched by LNER in December 2018 but this was delayed due to a series of problems, including their compatibility with Network Rail's signalling equipment, safety tests, staff training and new timetables.

Major work to update the East Coast Main Line's equipment and technology was also required to enable them to operate passenger services.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said: "There will be more services, the experience will be better and each train will have more seats."