A NEW fleet of trains for the East Coast Mainline that were built in the North-East will enter service in the region this week – and a special celebration has been held to mark the occasion.

Legendary locomotives of the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) appeared proudly alongside an LNER Azuma train at York and Darlington yesterday ahead of Azuma passenger services launching between London, York, the North-East and Edinburgh.

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The trains, which were built by Hitachi at the firm's Newton Aycliffe factory. offer more seats, more legroom, better WiFi, improved accessibility, greater reliability than the current fleet and ultimately faster journey times.

65 new Azuma trains will replace all of the existing LNER fleet of 45 trains by next summer.

The National Railway Museum’s world record-breaking A4 locomotive Mallard, which set a new speed record for steam on July 3, 1938, was at York station yesterday to officially welcome Azuma to the city.

David Horne, LNER managing director, said: “This week marks a new turning point for rail travel in Britain with LNER’s Azuma trains launching on our iconic route, connecting the region with Scotland and London.

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“LNER is unique due to our rich heritage of history-making people, trains and milestones. Sir Nigel Gresley, Flying Scotsman, Mallard and the famous speed records are part of the deep well of inspiration we draw upon to drive us further forward in creating new milestones for LNER.

“Azuma is a great example of how we are transforming rail travel, much in the same way our predecessors have done whether that be through the likes of the Class A4s, Deltics, HSTs or Class 91s.

"They’ve all been great trains that have served LNER customers well over the years, and Azuma now continues that proud tradition of setting new standards in rail travel.

"The original Flying Scotsman service is much older than the locomotive of the same name, operating between London and Edinburgh from 1862. Throughout its 157-year history, and through several different incarnations, the service has endured as a symbol of speed and excellence on the East Coast route. We are excited to be continuing that proud tradition.”

The Azuma trains are already serving destinations between Leeds, Bradford, Skipton and Hull with London King’s Cross.