NORTHERN – which operates rail services on the Airedale line – has unveiled its new Class 331 train.

The first of the long-awaited units is due off the production line within a few weeks.

The train was 'presented' to Northern at a special event hosted by manufacturer CAF.

Ninety-eight of the new units are being built, as part of a multi-million pound modernisation of Northern's stock.

They will begin to appear on the network from the end of this year, although they are unlikely to be seen on the Airedale line until 2019.

Northern managing director, David Brown, said: "This is a landmark moment for Northern and for rail travel in the north of England.

"The new electric and diesel trains will significantly improve journeys and the travel experience for our customers across the region.

"As well as looking like 21st-century trains, our state-of-the-art units will be capable of travelling at 100mph, will have Wi-Fi, plug sockets at every seat, will be air conditioned and fully accessible."

The units will undergo testing, at Velim in the Czech Republic and back in the UK, this spring and summer.

It is envisaged the first trains will enter passenger service by Christmas.

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

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

"We have also started a significant station improvement scheme which has already seen more than 100 stations upgraded. This work will continue for the next 18 months as we further improve waiting areas, seating, lighting and customer information.

"By 2020 we will also be operating an extra 2,000 services every week, meaning our customers will not only have better trains and stations, they will have improved options to get them to where they need to be."

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."