Business travellers can now benefit from the new daily 05:40 departure from Sunderland, arriving in London King’s Cross at 09:08.
With the return service departing London at 20:00, both services will be faster than existing direct trains to Sunderland, by seven minutes southbound and 11 minutes northbound.
The new services mark a major milestone in Virgin Trains’ ambitious plans to transform services on its east coast route, which include a £21m overhaul of its fleet of 45 trains.
Over £40m has been committed to the fleet since the company launched its east coast services in March, when it announced plans to invest £140m over eight years.
A fleet of 65 brand new Virgin Trains will also be introduced on the east coast from 2018 built by Hitachi at its plant based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
David Horne, managing director at Virgin Trains, said: “The new services mark a major milestone in Virgin Trains’ ambitious plans to transform services on its East Coast route, which also includes £140m investment to deliver an improved service and more personalised customer experience.
“Business customers have been calling for more early-morning departures that will give them a longer day in the capital and we’re delighted to be delivering on our promise by launching these extra services.”
Cllr Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland Council, added: “We welcome this latest investment, which helps demonstrate continuing international business confidence in our city.
“Giving train passengers more flexible, regular travel options between Sunderland and King’s Cross can only be good for the local economy and I hope that these new direct services will become popular.
“An effective transport infrastructure is vital to our economic growth, and we will continue to work with our regional and business partners to provide this.”