British Rail Class 800

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British Rail Class 800
Intercity Express Train or Azuma
GWR Class 800 Azuma at Castle Cary
GWR 800319 at Castle Cary in 2019
The standard class interior of a LNER Class 800
The standard class interior of a LNER Class 800
In service
  • 16 October 2017 - present (GWR)
    15 May 2019 - present (LNER)
Built at
Family nameA-Train
Constructed2014 - 2018
Number built
  • 34 × 9-car sets
  • 46 × 5-car sets
Formation5-car: DPTS-MS-MS-MC-DPTF
CapacityGWR: 5 car set: 290 standard, 36 first class - 9 car set: 580 standard, 70 first class
LNER: 5 car set: 254 standard, 48 first class - 9 car set: 510 standard, 101 first class
North Pole
Stoke Gifford
Bounds Green
Doncaster Carr
Neville Hill TMD
Line(s) served
Car body constructionAluminium
Car length26 m (85 ft 3+58 in)
Width2.7 m (8 ft 10+14 in)
Maximum speed
  • 125 mph (201 km/h)
  • (140 mph, 225 km/h using ETCS in cab signalling)[4]
Weight243 tonnes (239 long tons; 268 short tons) (5-car),
438 tonnes (431 long tons; 483 short tons) (9-car)[5]
Axle load15 tonnes (14.8 long tons; 16.5 short tons)[6] (13 tonnes [12.8 long tons; 14.3 short tons] without diesel engine)
Traction system120 kW (160 hp) per axle[1]
Prime mover(s)MTU 12V 1600 R80L (three per 5-car unit, five per 9-car unit)
Engine type21-litre V12 turbo-Diesel
Cylinder count12
Power output560 kW (750 hp) per engine
Acceleration0.70 m/s2 (1.6 mph/s; 2.5 km/(h⋅s))[1])
Deceleration1 m/s2 (2.2 mph/s; 3.6 km/(h⋅s)) service
1.2 m/s2 (2.7 mph/s; 4.3 km/(h⋅s)) emergency[1]
Electric system(s)25 kV 50 Hz AC overhead lines
Current collection methodPantograph
Safety system(s)AWS, TPWS, ETCS, ATP (GWR Units)
Coupling systemDellner automatic couplers[7]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
1:^ The engines are fully rated at 700 kW (940 hp), but have been de-rated on these units.[8]

The British Rail Class 800 Intercity Express Train or Azuma is a type of bi-mode multiple unit train built by Hitachi for Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway. The type uses electric motors powered from overhead electric wires for traction, but also has diesel generators to enable trains to operate on unelectrified track. Based on the Hitachi A-train design, the trains were built by Hitachi between 2014 and 2018.

The trains were assembled at the Hitachi Newton Aycliffe facility, alongside the related Class 801 from bodyshells shipped from the Kasado plant in Japan; no body construction takes place in the UK.[9] As well as resembling the Class 801, the units are also very similar to the Class 802 units, which have uprated diesel engines and larger fuel tanks.

As part of its production, the Class 800 is a part of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) and is in the Hitachi AT300 product family.[10][11] The respective operators of the units have also given their units their own unique brand with the GWR units being known as the Intercity Express Train (IET) and LNER units being known as the Azuma.[12][13]

Background and design[edit]

Class 800 of LNER (left) next to a InterCity 125 of CrossCountry (right) at Leeds.

As part of the UK Government's Intercity Express Programme (IEP), the Class 800 units were built as partial replacements for the InterCity 125 trains which at the time operated services on the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line and also the InterCity 225 trains which currently operate services on the East Coast Main Line. The Class 800s are bi-modal multiple units using electric traction motors able to draw power from electrified overhead lines where available or provide the electricity via underfloor diesel generators when outside the electrified network. The train specification requires that this changeover can occur at line speed. As part of the Great Western Main Line order was originally for Class 801s, all Great Western franchise units have the possibility to be converted to electric-only operation by removal of the diesel engines.[14]

The Class 800s are capable of Driver-only operation when necessary, however nearly all services have a guard on board, with this exception being on Oxford and Bedwyn services operated by GWR, where drivers use the in-cab monitors to close the doors without a guard.[15] With a guard on board, door releases are still controlled by the driver, with the guard being responsible for closing the doors using the control panels in the vestibule areas. The driver will then carry out a secondary check of the side of the train before departure using the in-cab monitors.[16]

Introduction into service[edit]

GWR Class 800 (right) next to its predecessor InterCity 125 (left) at London Paddington

The Class 800 trains came into service on the Great Western Main Line on 16 October 2017, under the brand name Intercity Express Train (abbreviated to IET).[17] Teething problems surfaced on the inaugural service, with the train running late and an air conditioning unit discharging water into a carriage.[18] Following further problems, the units were withdrawn from service for one day on 19 October, then re-entered service the next day.[19]

The units were due to enter service on the East Coast Main Line from December 2018[20][21][22] with London North Eastern Railway after Virgin Trains returned the East Coast franchise to the government, but the introduction was delayed until 2019 owing to the units creating electro-magnetic emissions, in turn causing problems with signals and lineside equipment.[23]

The first Class 800 came into service on the East Coast Main Line on 15 May 2019, under the brand name 'Azuma'.[24] They initially began working Leeds, Hull and Newark services. The first one from Edinburgh to King's Cross ran on 1 August 2019, on the 'Flying Scotsman' service.[25]


Class 800 pantograph in lowered position

Despite being underfloor, the generator units (GU) are V12 configuration. The Class 801 has one GU for a five to nine-car set. These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails. The Class 800 and Class 802 bi-mode has three GU per five-car set and five GU per nine-car set. A five-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/4 and a nine-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/5/7/8.[1]

According to Modern Railways magazine, the limited space available for the GUs has made them prone to overheating. It claims that, on one day in summer 2018, "half the diagrammed units were out of action as engines shut down through overheating".[26]

Named trains[edit]

Captain Tom Moore on 800025

Great Western Railway's Intercity Express Trains are being named after "inspirational people" who have influenced the regions that the company serves.[27]

Great Western Railway's named / liveried Intercity Express Trains
Unit number Date Name
800003 13 June 2017 Queen Elizabeth II / Queen Victoria[28]
800004 30 June 2016 Isambard Kingdom Brunel / Sir Daniel Gooch[29]
800008 7 June 2018 #trainbow[30]
800009 7 March 2018 Sir Gareth Edwards / John Charles[31]
800010 10 January 2018 Michael Bond / Paddington Bear[32]
800014 8 March 2019 Megan Lloyd George / Edith New[33]
800019 22 June 2018 Johnny Johnson / Joy Lofthouse[34]
800020 18 April 2018 Bob Woodward / Elizabeth Ralph[35]
800023 18 April 2019 Kathryn Osmond / Firefighter Fleur Lombard[36]
800025 29 April 2020 Captain Tom Moore[37]
800026 6 August 2018 Don Cameron[38]
800036 30 October 2020 Dr Paul Stephenson[39]
800306 9 November 2018 Harold Day DSC / Allan Leonard Lewis VC (Armistice Centenary Commemoration train)[40]
800310 7 May 2021 Wing Commander Ken Rees (Stalag Luft III)[41]
800314 6 March 2020 Odette Hallowes[42][43]
800321 15 June 2020 'The Mask'[44]

London North Eastern Railway unveiled a special vinyl on one of their units to celebrate the launch of Azuma to Scotland. It was operated on the first Azuma from Scotland, which ran on the 'Flying Scotsman' from Edinburgh on 1 August 2019.[45] This same unit was also used when Azuma was launched to Aberdeen and Inverness respectively.[46][47]

London North Eastern Railway's named / liveried Azuma trains
Unit number Date Name
800104 1 August 2019 Celebrating Scotland (Our Official LNER Tartan train)

Fleet details[edit]

A total of 80 train sets will be constructed, with 36 five-car and 21 nine-car units intended for operation with Great Western Railway, plus 10 five-car and 13 nine-car with London North Eastern Railway.[8]

Class Operator No. built Year built Cars per set Unit nos.
Class 800/0 Intercity Express Train[48][49] Great Western Railway 36 2014–2018 5 800001–036
Class 800/1 Azuma[48][49] London North Eastern Railway 1 2015 9 800101
12 2018 800102-113
Class 800/2 Azuma[48][49] 10 5 800201–210
Class 800/3 Intercity Express Train[50] Great Western Railway 21 2017-2018 9 800301–321

In March 2016, Virgin Trains East Coast announced that its trains would carry the brand name Azuma, the Japanese word for "East".[51] In June 2016, GWR announced that its trains would be known as Intercity Express Trains.[52] However, due to the early demise of Virgin Trains East Coast, they will not operate the new trains, which will enter service with successor London North Eastern Railway. Even so, the Azuma brand has been retained by LNER.[53]

In July 2016, it was revealed that GWR's intended fleet of Class 801 units were to be converted from pure EMU to bi-mode due to delays in the electrification. Subsequently, these were reclassified as Class 800/3.[50] The original 1.35 m3 (300 imp gal) fuel tanks will also be replaced with larger capacity 1.55 m3 (340 imp gal) tanks.

On 30 June 2016, GWR's test unit (800 004) ran from Reading to London Paddington carrying invited dignitaries.[54]

GWR unit 800 003 was named Queen Elizabeth II by the monarch herself, in a ceremony at Paddington station on 14 June 2017.[28] The Queen had arrived at Paddington on the unit, travelling from Slough on the 175th anniversary of the first ever train journey by a reigning monarch, made on the same route by Queen Victoria.[28] The name is carried in the form of a decal, rather than the more traditional cast metal plate; the name Queen Victoria is borne on the other end of the unit[55]

On 10 January 2018, unit 800 010 was named Michael Bond in a ceremony at Paddington by his daughter, Karen Jankel. This coincided with the 60th anniversary of the late author's famous Paddington Bear series of children's books, and the other end of the unit carries the bear's name.[32]

On 1 May 2021, unit 800025 Captain Sir Tom Moore, arrived back at London Paddington, after completing a challenge to stop at 100 stations in only 40 hours, in memory of Captain Tom. The train was greeted by applause.[56]


GWR Class 800/0 Intercity Express Train (IET)
LNER Class 800/2 Azuma
GWR Class 800/3 Intercity Express Train (IET)
LNER Class 800/1 Azuma


The interiors on the Class 800 trains have received praise for the increased leg-room and greater number of seats and tables in Standard Class, in comparison to the trains they replace. However, the seats in both Standard and First Class have been heavily criticised for excessive hardness and discomfort on lengthy journeys, with the overall First Class experience said to be a downgrade as the seats are no longer leather like their predecessors had due to fire regulations.[57][58] The GWR IET has also been criticised for the lack of a buffet car with the catering service instead being provided by a trolley and also the fact that surfboards are no longer allowed on the train due to the limited space available.[59] In comparison with the IET, the LNER Azuma has a small 'micro' buffet retained with other aspects of the interior being similar between the two companies.[60]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On the evening of 13 November 2019, an LNER Azuma (800109) was involved in a collision with a Class 43 HST powercar (43300) at Neville Hill Depot, Leeds when the Class 800 ran into the rear of the HST. The trains were travelling at 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) and 5 miles per hour (8 km/h) respectively, with three carriages of the Class 800 derailing and the leading vehicle of the Class 800 and trailing locomotive of the HST being severely damaged. On 18 November 2020, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch published its report into the accident with the investigation finding that driver error was the cause of the accident, with insufficient training of the driver being an underlying cause. The effect of the collision was exacerbated by the design of the Class 800 as crashworthiness requirements did not require the effects of a collision at less than 23.5 mph (36 kph) to be taken into account, nor did it include specific criteria for assessing the derailment performance.[61][62][63][64]
  • A Class 800 bogie. The white casting at the top is attached to the body and has the triangular yaw damper bracket on the left and the square jacking point pocket to the right.
    On 26 April 2021 GWR temporarily withdrew eight 5-car Class 800 sets from service after finding cracks in the yaw damper brackets.[65][66][67]
  • On 8 May 2021, Great Western Railway, London North Eastern Railway and Hull Trains suspended most of their Class 800 series trains after cracks were found on the welds of the jacking points on an IET trainset undergoing maintenance.[68][69] This incident is potentially linked to the issues identified on a GWR trainset undergoing maintenance on April 26.[70] Significant disruption was caused by cancellations of trains between London, to Scotland and to the west of the UK.[71][72] Reports suggested that delays would last for "some time" with the repairs not being easy.[68] From 13 May 2021, some trains started to return to service, however more severely affected trains require repairs before use and a long term fix for all units is required.[73][74]


In 2017 Hornby issued its first OO gauge 5-car model of the BR Class 800/0 Hitachi IEP Bi-Mode in GWR Green livery.[75]

In early May 2021 Kato released its N-scale 5-car model of the BR Class 800/0 Hitachi IEP Bi-Mode in GWR Green livery with the 5-car model of the BR Class 800/2 in LNER livery later that month.[76][77]


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