This post is by Sasha Jenkins, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.
What I find really interesting about the new Virgin Trains “Azuma” train from Hitachi is not so much that it can go faster than the existing rolling stock, but how much a small increase in speed can improve the service for customers.
The Azuma will not be in full service until 2018, but when it does it will be cruising at 125mph and able to get up to this speed a full minute faster than the existing trains. This small improvement makes a big difference to the service.
The London to Edinburgh journey time will be reduced by 20 minutes and London to Leeds will be a two-hour journey in total. Given how long it takes some commuters to just travel across London by tube it seems possibly easier to just live in Yorkshire and commute by rail!
The Azuma has the potential to travel much faster – at 140mph – although track improvements are required to facilitate this. Assuming the tracks can be improved there are many additional benefits that customers might see in addition to just faster journey times.
The existing service improvements will already increase the possibility for journey frequency, with the potential for 28% more capacity during peak times. In addition, because of the improved speeds it should be possible to serve additional stations such as Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, Harrogate, and Lincoln.
Virgin Trains has ordered 65 Azumas from Hitachi at a cost of £3.3bn showing a strong commitment to the improvement of the East Coast Mainline service. I think that with much of the debate around rail improvement in the UK focused on HS2 and HS3, and with little certainty around when these projects will be delivered, it is great to see projects that are measurably improving rail travel for customers.
Virgin Trains is demonstrating that even a small increase in performance can make a big difference for customers in the frequency of trains and number of stations served. It’s a real story of how a one-minute improvement in acceleration can dramatically improve the customer experience.
What do you think about the Azuma and the changes it can bring to the East Coast Mainline? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
Photo by Simon Smiler licensed under Creative Commons.