THE COMPANY which operates the Northern rail franchise is moving forward with its modernisation plan as it emerged that the first completed new train is due off the production line in a matter of weeks.

The train, an electric unit Class 331, was presented to Northern, operated by Arriva Rail North Limited, at a special event hosted by manufacturer CAF in Spain. The 98 new units, part of a multi-million pound modernisation of Northern’s stock, will start to be introduced on the network from December this year.

David Brown, Managing Director at Northern, said: “This is a landmark moment for Northern and for rail travel in the north of England.

“We are introducing 98 new electric and diesel trains which will significantly improve journeys and the travel experience for our customers across the region. As well as looking like 21st Century trains, our new state-of-the-art units will be capable of travelling at 100mph, will have wifi, plug sockets at every seat, will be air conditioned and fully accessible.”

Once complete the train, along with other finished units, will soon head to Velim in the Czech Republic for testing before being brought into the UK for further tests.

These tests will take place during the spring and summer with the first trains scheduled to carry passengers in time for Christmas 2018.

Mr Brown added: “Our modernisation programme is gathering pace and the promises we made at the start of the franchise are really taking shape.

“Alongside our new trains we have delivered more than 70 refurbished trains which are already helping customers go about their daily lives with greater reliability and comfort.

Northern is the biggest rail operator in the Bradford district, running services on the Airedale, Wharfedale and Calderdale lines. When asked if the new trains would operate in the Bradford district, a Northern spokesman said: “Initially the trains will operate between Blackpool and Manchester Airport, Windermere and Manchester Airport and Chester and Leeds. The Chester to Leeds service is scheduled to call at Bradford – at this stage I believe it will be a diesel unit, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Tim Calow, chairman of the Aire Valley Rail Users' Group, welcomes the introduction of the units.

But he warns they will not provide an instant solution to all issues on the Airedale route.

"From what we have seen there will be more seating – and extra room for standing!" said Mr Calow.

"It is a step forward, and new trains are always welcome, but they will not eradicate the overcrowding issues.

"And it's unclear whether existing platforms will be long enough to accommodate the trains, so the platforms may need to be extended or some carriage doors kept closed."