Pictures: Chamber guests hear about Azuma launch at Tees Valley lunch

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Over 120 Chamber guests heard at first-hand about LNER’s London launch of its new Azuma train built by Hitachi in County Durham, at the annual Tees Valley lunch at Wynyard Hall, sponsored by Northern Skills Group.

Taking place just a few days after the launch, LNER managing director David Horne said it had been an exciting week both for his business and the North-East.

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He explained the move back to public ownership and that LNER’s relaunch as a name was a great opportunity to push new boundaries in rail services on the East Coast.

He said: “Our business is nowhere without its people and it was important for us right from the outset to get our employees’ views and experiences so we could use this information to shape the new service.

“We needed to fully understand what drives our staff to get up early in the morning to drive the trains, what challenges do they face? For example, how did they cope with the Beast from the East? Part of this internal research was a comprehensive staff consultation with over 500 interviews and 1,600 questionnaires completed, to identify how we could best the best we could be.

“As part of our determination to improve our on-board offer we have also embraced the talent of our chefs and regional suppliers.”

There is also substantial investment planned and underway at a range of stations in the North-East including Durham Station’s underpass and a new pilot digital station in Newcastle.

At Darlington there are more services planned and Middlesbrough is due to get more direct services to London, although there needs to be more upgrading work for this to happen.

David Horne added: “A key part of this investment work is improvement to our infrastructure especially around Kings Cross.”

He also outlined the Azuma trains are the first new fleet between London and Leeds for 30 years and have been four years in development.

The train has extra capacity to the existing trains including 100 extra seats in standard class and more leg room. They will be introduced on the track each week, with the whole new fleet in operation by August.

The event was sponsored by Northern Skills Group, the training and apprenticeship arm of Middlesbrough College.

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