The first LNER Azuma train has called at Middlesbrough as part of driving training, and has been welcomed by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
Platform 2 at Middlesbrough has been extended as part of the first phase of the £34m upgrades to accommodate LNER Azumas into the station ahead of the services beginning from December.
Now that the platform extension work is complete, work will move on to the next phase, which includes major customer improvements including opening the station undercroft to provide a new entrance to the new station subway.
Upgrades to the road at the front of the station will be made to improve access between the station and the town centre.
Another phase of the project will see a new platform 3 built to the north of platform 2 to increase train capacity.
Mayor Houchen said: “Now that we’ve delivered the extended platform at Middlesbrough station, it’s great to see LNER moving forward with getting their drivers trained so we can give local people the service to the capital they’ve been crying out for.
“This is even more important as our businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and start to once again visit major cities such as London, Manchester and York on business, securing opportunities and helping them to grow and create good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people.
“The improved connection will also help drive forward investment from the capital into our region as we continue to shout about all of the benefits of being based here, including the UK’s largest Freeport just a few miles down the road.
“Big and small, we’re driving forward with upgrades across the network in all of our boroughs so we can give people the more reliable, faster services that they deserve.”
David Horne, Managing Director of LNER said: “Thanks to investment in Middlesbrough Station, we are working to introduce an inaugural Middlesbrough-London service from December 2021, and a regular service in the coming years, to better connect the heart of the Tees Valley with the capital.
“I encourage all interested parties to comment on the proposed East Coast Main Line timetable public consultation that is currently under way.”
Matt Rice, Network Rail’s Route Director in the North and East, said: “Working collaboratively, and at pace, has been the key to getting platform 2 extended in good time to allow the driver training for the London-bound trains to begin. This, along with the next stage of improvements at Middlesbrough and elsewhere, will ultimately provide a better rail experience for the people of Teesside and we’re delighted to be able to continue to support the aspirations of Mayor Houchen and the Tees Valley Combined Authority for the region.”
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “We need and deserve direct trains to London and this positive development is another sign that, finally, it’s actually happening.”
Dan Jones, Operations Director for Story Contracting, said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen to deliver the vital upgrades to Middlesbrough Station on behalf of Network Rail, which will in turn provide thousands of passengers in Tees Valley with faster, more frequent, and better-quality services.
“Additional to the benefits the upgrades will bring, we are also committed to supporting the local community which the station serves and are working with our partners to ensure we are adding social value back into the region.
“From investing in the town’s next generation of skilled workers, to supporting community groups and charities, we are ensuring we leave a long-lasting positive legacy in Middlesbrough providing a boost to the economy and widening employment opportunities for the local residents.”
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