Bolton News politics reporter Daniel Holland shares his thoughts after visiting Spain this week to see Northern Rail’s new fleet under construction...

THERE was only one thought in my mind as I sat on a Northern Rail service from Bolton to Manchester Airport on Tuesday: ‘Whatever they have waiting for us in Spain, it has to be better than this.’

While I had avoided the early morning crush that has become all too familiar for Bolton’s commuters, I was still left to lament a slow, noisy, and uncomfortable journey. Those same problems have been the bane of passengers’ lives for years and we all know that major change is needed to provide Bolton with a rail service fit for the 21st century.

Rail users are — quite understandably — thoroughly fed up of hearing promises of better things to come, while seeing little or no tangible improvements to their miserable daily commute.

I am delighted to report, therefore, that the newly-constructed trains I saw at the CAF factory in Zaragoza were genuinely impressive.

The much-improved capacity and speed are absolutely essential features to relieve the overcrowding along the Manchester to Preston and Blackburn lines.

Free Wifi throughout, passenger information screens, seat reservation systems, air conditioning, and power sockets are also things that should be expected on modern trains, but have been sadly lacking for too long in the North.

The much-improved legroom on the train I sat in came as a most welcome relief, too.

As someone who cannot sit in the airline-style seats on existing Northern trains, I know how welcome that particular upgrade will be to long-legged commuters.

The big question now is, ‘when will we actually see these trains in Bolton?’

The Northern Rail bosses I spoke with indicated that our railway lines would be a priority area for introducing these new trains once they arrive in the UK.

But that is entirely dependent on whether Network Rail can complete its long-delayed electrification works by its December 2018 deadline — the latest target date for a project that has been plagued by problems.

There are no guarantees that will happen on schedule, and Northern have warned passengers that significant change is only likely to arrive in 2019 and 2020.

But good news is all too rare when it comes to Bolton’s railways and should be welcomed whenever it appears. The fact is that I have seen the trains that are coming and they are a serious upgrade on what we have now.

After years of frustration, there is light at the end of the tunnel.