The LNER Class 801 "Azuma" at Peterborough

The LNER Class 801 "Azuma"

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The Class 801 electric multiple units are operated by London North Eastern Railway under the Azuma brand, and were brought into service in 2019 under the Intercity Express Programme.

These units were introduced as part of the Department for Transport’s aforementioned Intercity Express Programme, which saw Hitachi’s AT300 trains succeed the ageing InterCity 125 and InterCity 225 fleets on the East Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line.

Class 801 "Azuma" at Peterborough

They were initially being manufactured for both London North Eastern Railway and Great Western Railway, however, in 2016, GWR announced they would update their order to Class 800/3 units for bi-modal operation. This was due to delays in the electrification of the Great Western Main Line, and the Class 801s only being fitted with a single diesel engine for emergency use only.

LNER is operating twelve 5-car /1 units and a further thirty 9-car /2 units. These first entered service with doubled-up /1s on the 16th of September in 2019, and later that year, the 9-car units were introduced on the 18th of November. Alongside the Class 801s, LNER also operates 23 Class 800 BMUs.

Standard Class 2+2 seating arrangement in an airline-style layout

In standard class, there is a 2+2 seating configuration, with a variety of single and table seats in each coach. On the backs of single seats are relatively compact fold-down tables, and there are also foldable armrests. Plenty of space to store luggage can be found at the ends of each coach, with more space both under and above your seat. Electronic seat reservation is also utilised, with displays above each seat. Power sockets can be found between each pair of seats for laptops and phones, and where available, there is also food and drink service which is delivered directly to your seat. There are wheelchair spaces and accessible toilets onboard, as well, should you need them.

First Class offers a variety of enhancements, including access to LNER first class lounges, though the value of these upgrades is subjective.

The 2+1 seating arrangement in LNER First Class on the Class 801

Following the rollout of the Class 800 BMUs and the Class 801 EMUs, further orders for AT300 units have been placed by various train operating companies in the UK, although these are not under the Intercity Express Programme. Great Western Railway have since ordered several additional units for their IET fleet, and Hull Trains are now operating Class 802 Paragon units. TransPennine Express have also taken interest in the Class 802s, and these are now in service under the ‘Nova’ fleet overhaul. Furthermore, East Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast both announced orders for various AT300 trains in 2019.

Hull Trains Class 802 Paragon at London King's Cross
A Class 802 "Paragon" sat in London King's Cross

And if that wasn’t enough for you, the recently-unveiled budget-operator Lumo will be operating five 5-car Class 803s for its open access service beginning October 2021. As yet another subsidiary of FirstGroup, this TOC will be running two trains per day in either direction to offer a budget service from London to Edinburgh. It’s certainly an interesting strategy, and one that can be likened to many budget airlines, but with limited capacity, I’m holding my breath. However, if Lumo does turn out to be a relative success, we might see them expanding to the West Coast Main Line, for example.

The IETs are subject to an immense volume of criticism from rail enthusiasts, and the conversation comparing IETs to their predecessors amasses plenty of debate. With the concern surrounding cracks discovered in Hitachi trains aside, the IETs do just what they were brought into do. Most of the time.

Seb J.

Seb J.

Seb is documenting Britain's railways, one train trip at a time. Since starting the To The Trains channel in 2020, he's been producing content on the railways - articles, videos, and podcasts.