East Coast Main Line Intercity Express
Routes & stations covered by the IEP on Virgin Trains ECML intercity express services.
If you want to get anywhere to the North of England by broadly following the East coast of the UK by train, you’ll most likely be using a Virgin Trains East Coast service.
It’s an electrified route which takes you from London to Edinburgh, taking in such cities and towns as Peterbororough, Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds, York, Darlington, Newcastle, and Edinburgh. Locations to the north of Edinburgh such as Aberdeen and Inverness are served by diesel-powered trains
Virgin took over the franchise for provision of ECML services in March of 2015.
Prior to the introduction of high speed trains on HS1, the ECML carried the fastest Intercity Express trains on UK routes. This was mainly due to the electrified track of course, but was aided by the fact that many sections – particularly those through Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire – are straight and flat.
Virgin plan to introduce IEP/Hitachi Intercity Express trains from 2018, with speeds expected to equal and potentially surpass the current Intercity trains that serve the routes. They’ve named the new trains the Azuma and the ECML routes for the Virgin Azuma IEPs will of course be generally the same, though some additional services are expected to be introduced as the benefits of more capacity and faster overall journey times are realised.
Read more about the history and planned future changes and improvements of the ECML on the Wikipedia page.
In mid March 2016 the first fully liveried Virgin Azuma train pulled into London’s Kings Cross station on its inaugural trip, to be greeted in person by Richard Branson.
It’s the first in a line of 65 Intercity Express Class 800 or Class 801 trains, either fully electric or bi-mode electric/diesel. The full fleet is expected to be in operation on East Coast routes by 2020, comprising of 13 nine-car Class 800/1’s, 10 five-car Class 800/2 bi-modes, 12 five-car 801s, and 30 nine-car Class 801 electric multiple unit IEPs.
Commuters on the services will enjoy speeds of 125mph, with the potential for the trains to run at 140mph if the necessary track improvements can be made
The Intercity 125 fleet will be replaced by the IEP on the two lines regarded as the busiest and longest in Britain:
The Great Western Main Line managed by First Great Western, which runs out from London’s super hub of Paddington and branches out to Bristol and Cardiff in South Wales via Reading, Oxford, and Swindon, and the North and South Cotswolds. Major towns such as Newbury and Swansea are also covered. The first trains are expected to be running in summer 2017.
The East Coast Main Line, which runs out of King’s Cross (a newly refurbished and rebuilt super hub in north central London) and runs up through towns and cities like Stevenage, Peterborough, York, Wakefield, Leeds, Westgate Newcastle, and Edinburgh. Trains – known as Azumas – are planned for introduction in 2018. Virgin Trains took over management of East Coast services on 1st March 2015.
The program will also replace a number of other train set routes including those long distance routes from London to Cambridge (out of King’s Cross), London Euston to Oxford, London Paddington to Weston Super Mare and London Kings Cross to Kingston Upon Hull.
Full details of Intercity Express routes can be found on the IEP routes page here on IEPTrain.co.uk nearer the time of introduction, and you’ll also find a page dedicated to finding the best deals on tickets.
It’s early days to be talking about timetables on the IEP routes. Current timetables will clearly change depending on frequency and carriage confirmation of the new trains. Nearer the time of service introduction you’ll find detailed info on the IEP timetables page.