A new fleet of trains due to be rolled out at the end of this year on the East Coast mainline is being held back due to out of date equipment on the tracks. Azuma trains, operated by LNER, use both electric and diesel to reach higher speeds more efficiently than older trains. But old signals and points in certain parts of the country aren't compatible with the trains' electric technology, meaning that they're limited to using only diesel, and therefore much more slowly than they're designed to be run.
The Azuma trains are currently being tested on the East Coast mainline, where they're proposed to run between Edinburgh and London from the end of the year. At their expected speed, the Azuma trains will reduce the journey time between the two capital cities by 22 minutes. But unless the track issues are fixed, that won't be the case.
Former transport secretary Lord Adonis stated the trains had been ordered 10 years ago, and as such, there's been a decade in order to get these issues fixed. Current transport secretary, Chris Grayling, admits that there are "teething problems", but that "we have started to move towards greater integration between track and trains. The new franchises involve much closer working between Network Rail and the train companies."
The main issues lie on track north of York, which uses an older system than the rest of the network. It's overdue an upgrade similar to what's happened on the West Coast Main Line – but the electrification of that track was at a cost of billions of pounds. The Azuma trains, designed by Japanese manufacturer Hitachi, are currently being assembled at the company's County Durham plant. They're still due to be rolled out at the end of this year, but presumably will be running slower than they should be until the tracks are upgraded to be compatible. [BBC]