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Countdown is on for Highland arrival of Azuma trains

By Gavin Musgrove

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A small piece of rail history will be made shortly when the new Azuma starts commercial service in the strath.

The state of the art train based on Japan's famous bullet trains will come into operation with LNER on December 9.

It takes over the mantle of the longstanding HST on the 580 miles route between Inverness and London.

The Azuma train's introduction will be the start of a new era on the East Coast line.
The Azuma train's introduction will be the start of a new era on the East Coast line.

Local rail expert Ian Lamb said the Azumas will provide the main stay on the Highland main line for many years to come and will have a tough act to follow.

He said it was a long-awaited replacement but that the HST had been an incredible – and reliable – high-speed train delivering The Highland Chieftain service

Mr Lamb said: "These new LNER IET Class 800 coaches are based on the internationally renowned Bullet trains and have been assembled at Newton Aycliffe in the North East of England.

"It will continue to be a direct contact between the north of Scotland and London but it should not be forgotten that the original brief for replacement was to end these trains at Edinburgh due to the motive power being all electric.

"This would have resulted in Aberdeen and Inverness bound passengers having to change to ScotRail services for their journey to and from home.

"But due to the dogged determination of Danny Alexander – who was our MP at the time – the anticipated preferred bid was ousted in favour of the Hitachi one because they could manufacture bi-modal power trains, meaning that – like the existing HSTs – trains beyond Edinburgh will switch to diesel operation."

Azuma means East in Japanese and refers to the train running on the east coast line.

The daily service connecting the strath with Edinburgh, Newcastle, London and several points in between stops at Aviemore and Kingussie.

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