LNER has officially started testing its trains to a brand new North-East destination which is expected to launch later this year.

The railway firm has been running its Azuma trains to Middlesbrough ahead of plans to run a service between the town and London in December.

Already, major improvement works have been taking place at Middlesbrough Railway Station with platforms extended to accommodate the longer trains.

Read more: Direct trains from Middlesbrough to London set to start this year

This week, LNER's first train was captured by eagle-eyed fans as the test service whizzed past Newport Bridge at around 4.30am on Monday.

The LNER Azuma was passing Newport Bridge near Middlesbrough on Monday morning - video by TONY WINWARD 

The Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen hailed the testing as progress on the new route continued as he said the service would provide "top-quality" links to the capital.

He said: “In January we kick-started work at Middlesbrough Station to extend the platform and get it ready for LNER's direct trains to London, giving local people the top-quality public transport links they deserve. 

“It had been talked about for years but we’ve been getting on with the job of improving our network and later this month this first stage of our station redevelopment will be complete.

“It’s great to see that, like the progress we’ve made, LNER is also cracking on and wasting no time in testing their Azuma trains, ready for their introduction by the end of the year.

An LNER spokesperson confirmed testing is underway, while echoing that services would begin in December this year.

An spokesperson said: “LNER is working towards introducing an inaugural Middlesbrough service from December 2021, to better connect the heart of the Tees Valley with the capital.

"Beyond this, we are continuing to work closely with the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Network Rail to introduce a regular service through the day in the coming years, enabled by investment in Middlesbrough station.”