LNER Class 800 ‘Azuma’ – A Review

Credit: Dan Sutcliffe

On Saturday 18th May 2019, We took a ride on the brand new Class 800 ‘Azuma’ operated by LNER.

Whilst going from Leeds to Wakefield Westgate, I took notes of various things about the Class 800.

Below are my notes, first impressions to arriving into my destination and also my thoughts on the trains from an enthusiasts point of view.

**Please note – this article is completely opinion based, everyone is entitled to their own**

Initial Impressions of the Class 800 ‘Azuma’

I have seen these trains at various locations on the National Network for quite a while now. When first seeing these trains in the plain white colour they carried whilst in testing, I wasn’t attracted in any way to these trains however now liveries have been emerging on the units, they don’t look as boring now.

We have seen LNER and their red stripe livery appearing more common on the Azumas every day. We have also seen Transpennine Express with their Nova 1 (Class 802) trains carrying the ‘stained glass’ livery which I personally think is by far the best livery for these units.

When I was arriving into Leeds on my train, I spotted a very clean 800102 arriving alongside me which would form the 13:45 departure to London which I would board.

When up close with the 800, the outside of the train was immaculate considering this had just travelled up the ECML from London.

Upon boarding the train for the first time, I was blown away with how bright the interior was. I took my seat at a table and started taking notes.

First of all, I was happy with the reasonable amount of leg room there was, plenty of room to make yourself comfy for a long distance journey, The seat reservation signs are in good positions and are clear to understand and read from the perspective of a member of the public in a rush to find their seat. The announcements sounded roughly every 5 minutes which is a good thing as people are constantly boarding the train.

Finally, the last positive for this section is the fact there is a window at every seat which makes the journey a lot more pleasant so you always have the scenery to look at whilst speeding along. An issue I do have with these trains is the seats; they aren’t the comfiest to sit on, however, they weren’t the worst I’ve experienced, when travelling on a long journey, this could be an issue. Finally, the positions of the plug sockets aren’t in a great position, I would have very much liked to have seen them at the side of your seat as they most commonly are found instead of under the seats.

Setting off from Leeds

When setting off from Leeds, the departure was very smooth and I wasn’t aware we were moving until I glanced out of the window. Going over the points outside of Leeds, the train was shaking more than I expected it to, was thrown about a bit in the seat.


During the journey, which was done on a warm sunny day, the air con certainly did its justice in keeping the carriage at a reasonably cool temperature. The journey was also very quiet meaning you can get some peace and quiet or if you were doing work on-the-go, you would be able to concentrate.

However, after about 5-10 minutes, the seats became quite uncomfortable and I was thankful to be getting off at Wakefield. Also, it is quite noticeable when the train is accelerating or braking as I was thrown backwards and forwards in my seat; if you have something on the table infront of you or the one on the back of another seat, I found things often started sliding about.

Arriving at destination

When arriving at Wakefield, I was impressed at how smooth the brake application was from the driver coming in to the platform at a good speed however as soon as my carriage reached the platform, the brake application was harsh and the train jolted to a stop meaning people stood at the door waiting to get off were thrown against the wall.

Overall verdict from an enthusiast’s point of view

Overall, out of 10, I would rate the Azumas 5/10. The quality of the ride whilst on the move is good however as I said, the acceleration and brake applications are severely noticeable and the seats are also not comfortable for a 15-minute journey, so I wouldn’t want to experience a long distance journey.

Personally, no matter how much of this ‘modern technology’ is crammed into one of these, there is no replacing the classic Class 43 HSTs. The HSTs have been the backbone of the major railway lines such as the Great Western mainline and the East Coast Mainline for 43 years; they have comfortable seats, good ride quality and they have good acceleration and braking, not over the top. LNER and various companies can claim that they have faster acceleration but that really shouldn’t matter, and in my eyes, it really doesn’t. Electric trains are bound to have faster acceleration over diesel however ‘cutting journey times’ is a myth. The top speed of our railways is 125mph and that isn’t set to change any time soon so just because a train can reach 125 before another one can shouldn’t be something to hype about. I am fully aware people say “times are changing” and “you’ve got to move on” and yes they are correct, but the Azumas have been badly designed and produced.

Yes, people will have different opinions to mine and thats fine, however, this is just my point of view. Feel free to comment below with your views of the Azumas/IETs.

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  1. In regard to your comments about seat comfort I totally agree. My experience is on GWR trains – same class, same issues – very hard and uncomfortable for any length of journey. I often travel from Reading in to London and back and they are not as comfortable as they should be. Given that they have been in operation for many months now, and there have been plenty of comments along these lines, I am surprised that LNER have not done something to remedy it – I will consider taking blow up cushions to sit on / against when I next travel long distance with them on an Azuma!! How crazy is that LNER???

  2. Well done to LNER for introducing the new Class 800 Azuma Bi-mode trains into service. Next will be Class 801 Electric Azuma trains that is scheduled to enter service some stage this year.

  3. Really interested to read your views. The new trains will shorten journey times on the GWR route at least. For example saving about 15 minutes to Swansea from London Paddington when the new timetable comes in December.

  4. Also agree on seats. Very uncomfortable and had back ache after only a 45 min journey from Peterborough to London. Old LNER seats much better.

  5. On a return from KGX to Leeds, both ways on an Azuma. Seats are awful. More comfortable to travel on a spin dryer. Shake, rattle and roll all the way.
    Add to that the seat recline on the way home to Leeds is already broken.
    Verdict – horrible.

  6. I recently travelled on 800103 from KGX to Doncaster in the full first class coach. It was full and very cramped. There are 10 more seats compared with a Mk4 First Class coach and far fewer tables. As stated by fellow travellers the seats were uncomfortable and the ride was harsh and noisy, particularly over pointwork. The best part of the journey was opening the doors and getting out at journey’s end.

  7. I wouldn’t be judging the smoothness of the braking and acceleration just yet, bear in mind that these are brand new traction to drivers who are not used to driving units. They will have been taught to drive a certain way, regards how they apply power and how driving defensively. They will adjust their braking as they get used to the units, in time. In an HST, you can apply the brake fairly firmly and theres a delay until it achieves the desired level of retardation, this means that the passengers behind you feel a gradual brake – in a unit that delay is minuscule, so braking from 0% to 50% will feel more immediate and rough to a passenger than it would in an HST or a MK4. It’s a learning curve for the drivers too.

  8. These Units are completely unsuitable for the ECML. They are poor from the cab to the saloons. The comment of all windows lining up is absurd the reviewer must have had his eyes closed at the time! The cabs have design floors for eg the digital speedo is hidden in sunlight and now being retro fitted with shrouds! Simply put these are cheap and nasty plastic trains. There are many more issues but won’t put them on these net forums. Luggage facilities are very poor this WILL cause chaos.

  9. I completely agree the seats are awful, far too hard, be bad enough for a commuter train but for long distance is ridiculous. Add to that a pretty firm ride which is fine over smooth sections but harsh over points and bad track. And I only went from Grantham to London, London to Aberdeen would have been unbearable.

  10. Not only were the seats on the Azuma hard, every bump at points etc was transmitted to the passenger. The ride seemed less smooth than previous trains and at some places on the journey from KCX to Grantham I thought the wheels were dodecagonal, shaped like the one pound coin. In conversation, I discovered passengers at the same table were also uncomfortable.

  11. The seats are not suitable for long journeys. Too upright, force the head forward and gives no support to the neck, never mind the numbing hardness on the bottom. My neck was hurting before Peterborough. The ride of the coaches is hard and picks up every bump with an annoying sudden sideways yawing motion. Will be using West Coast route in future.

  12. First trip on Azuma from London to Edinburgh, a frequent trip. I find the seat diabolically uncomfortable and I now have dreadful backache. Horrified, as I have another 2 hours to endure. Not what I was expecting, and such a basic. Gutted.

  13. I’ve been on these a couple of times now and unfortunately they are a disappointment. A step backwards over the existing HST and class 91/MK4 sets in most key areas.

    Seats – Very poor. Rock hard and bolt upright with no lumbar support. Totally unsuitable for a long distance train. I found them uncomfortable after less than half an hour.

    Noise levels – Poor. Intrusive motor noise when under power in electric mode. Presumably running in diesel mode only adds to that. Not relaxing at all.
    (However this does not seem to affect the outermost coaches, which are pleasantly quiet.)

    Ride – Poor. Ok at speed on the smooth and straight sections but very harsh over points and undulations.

    Luggage Space – Poor. On the HST you have two compartments in the power cars for bulky items, bikes etc. On the Mk4 set you have the DVT for the same purpose.
    These sets have neither and people with larger luggage or bikes will have problems especially during peak periods as there is minimal space in the coaches for either.

    The only area in which they are clearly a step forward is performance. They accelerate pretty damn quick! Maybe even too quick – It does push you back in your seat and if you are standing up and the driver applies full power too suddenly I think this could catch you out!

    Overall the existing fleet, which is now 30-40 years old, is still far ahead in terms of seating comfort, ride quality and noise levels.
    I hope LNER / Hitachi / DaFT will look into these issue and seek to rectify them ASAP, especially the seats. BR were getting all the basics right 30+ years ago, so there really is no excuse for such poorly designed interiors in 2019.

      • Travelled from Edinburgh to Peterborough for first time.

        Seats were awful. Had to get up and walk up amd down as my back was so sore

        Joureney was actually Elgin to Diss everything else far more comfortable very sad and disappointed.

        Do not remember the HS1 trains being so uncomfortable

  14. Experienced the new azuma LNER standard class yesterday. Seats really really awful. Numb bum after half an hour, back and neck ache from the vertical seat back. Couldn’t relax my neck at all because of the angle, and no lumbar support.

  15. I agree with all the above complaints (I can’t of course comment on the technical comments). I have travelled on it 1st class several times and it is appallingly uncomfortable and the loss of most of the ‘single opposite seats’ is unfortunate. The double seats with a non lift able tray across them are also frighteningly claustrophobic. it is certainly a step back from the previous model which gave a comfortable and enjoyable ride worth the first class ticket. I could only describe it as very ‘downmarket’ and i have not spoken to a single person who did not agree with all of the above. How could this have happened??


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