Thrilled to be at Kings Cross Station in London this morning to unveil the new Virgin Azuma train and see the team. The Hitachi model is set to revolutionise travel on our Virgin Trains East Coast services, by delivering our passengers faster journeys and better comfort.
Together with my friend and business partner, Stagecoach founder Sir Brian Souter, I waited eagerly on the platform to get a glimpse of the wonderful new train. It was a hugely important moment. Our customers on the West Coast have already seen what Virgin can bring to train travel and how the Pendolinos have made a huge difference to speed and comfort. The trains on the West Coast have helped us more than double passenger numbers. Our new fleet of Azumas will bring a similar transformation to the East Coast, and propel one of the UK’s most prestigious lines into the 21st century.
We’ll be adding 65 Virgin Azuma trains to our fleet from 2018, providing an extra 12,200 seats to services on a new and improved timetable. What’s more, the Azumas have the potential to reach speeds of 140mph (subject to Network Rail delivering on the track), meaning our passengers will get to their destinations much quicker. It’s an incredibly exciting time for all of us at Virgin Trains East Coast and for passengers across the UK.
Amongst all of this morning’s celebrations, I was told a humbling story about an inspiring young Scottish Virgin Trains employee named Lewis Vaughan. Suffering with terminal cancer and given only weeks to live by doctors, Lewis has dedicated himself to raising awareness and money for Marie Curie by asking people to take a selfie with a hat on while making an L hand symbol.
To honour Lewis and help his spread his message, we’ve branded one of our trains – which travels between Inverness and London – with the #LforLewis hashtag. The East Coast #LforLewis train service will operate for a month, and we encourage train passengers across the UK to a take selfie next to the train and upload it to social media, and also donate to Lewis’s Virgin Money Giving appeal.