BRAND new “world-class” Azuma trains, which are set to upgrade rail travel in the north, finally launch today - but York will not benefit just yet.

Publicly-owned London North Eastern Railway (LNER) said the new trains will boost capacity and reduce fares.

The first service launches today (Wednesday, May 15) on the East Coast Main Line, five months later than planned, with 65 Azumas eventually replacing 45 ageing LNER trains.

A preview for rail industry executives, politicians and media was held at London King’s Cross on Tuesday, with the first service running from London to Leeds from today.

Azuma means “east” in Japanese, and the new fleet is modelled on the country’s bullet trains. Each service includes up to 100 extra seats compared with existing services, more leg room, free Wi-Fi and electronic reservation displays.

While the Azumas will launch on the London King’s Cross-Leeds route from today, the rest of the LNER network will not see the new trains until the “coming months”, with the rest of Yorkshire, the East Midlands, north-east England, Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh still to be upgraded.

David Horne, LNER managing director, said: “The new trains are really the start of the transformation on the East Coast route. They’re replacing trains which are 30 and 40 years old at the moment. These trains will bring lower fares.

“On the Leeds to London route in the coming weeks we’ll be offering about 10,000 extra fares a week at the lower end of the price range - those fares that are £29 or less. That is us taking one of the key benefits of these trains - the extra capacity - and taking that in the form of cheaper fares for customers using the route.”

Azumas were due to be launched by LNER in December, but were delayed due to compatibility problems with Network Rail’s signalling equipment, safety tests, staff training and new timetables.