THE unveiling at King’s Cross of the first Class 800 IEP destined for use on the East Coast route was a high-profile affair, with all the razzmatazz you would expect from a company like Virgin.
Even boss Richard Branson was there to help show off the new train, and that ensured massive media coverage for the event.
But beyond the hype – and let us not forget that Virgin has only a 10% stake in the East Coast franchise, while majority partner Stagecoach does not have anywhere near the same public image – it was great to get a first glimpse of the future at the historic London terminus.
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From 2018, these IEP trains – now named ‘Azuma’ by VTEC, which is Japanese for East – should help transform East Coast travel in the way that ‘Pendolinos’ did on the West Coast route (but no jokes about the toilets at this point, please!).
The introduction of ‘Azumas’ will see a greater number of destinations served, as well as more frequent services to those already on the network.
Plus with a claimed faster acceleration than the existing fleet of HSTs and IC225 sets, and discussions with Network Rail about 140mph running, journey times should come down significantly to all destinations.
It is interesting to note that a few weeks after the ‘Azuma’ launch, a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley was unveiled at King’s Cross. This was the man who brought Edinburgh within eight hours of London in the 1920s.
The ‘Azumas’ should bring that same journey down to less than four in everyday service.
A FIERY END
At the other end of a train’s lifespan, apart from those lucky enough to enter preservation, is the scrapyard – and in modern traction terms, there is arguably none so famous as the former Leicester yard of Vic Berry’s.
Twenty five years ago, a major fire heralded the end of the business, but not before it had processed many hundreds of locomotives, units and coaches – at times unable to keep up with the incoming numbers, leading to the yard’s famous ‘stacks’.
We look back at Vic Berry’s this month with the fascinating tale of its rise and fall, and the many vehicles to have ended their days there.