THE transformation of the Wales and Borders rail network has moved another step closer with the first of the brand-new Class 197 trains coming off the production line in Newport.

Testing has begun on the first two of 77 new trains which are due to begin entering service from next year on long-distance services, serving destinations as varied as Holyhead, Fishguard and Liverpool.

The bodyshells of the Class 197 Civity trains were built in Beasain, northern Spain, by Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF before final assembly took place at the company’s factory in Llanwern, Newport.

James Price, Transport for Wales chief executive, said: “The Class 197s will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network and we look forward to welcoming passengers onto the new trains from next year.

“We’re delighted with the quality of the trains and proud that final assembly has taken place in Newport, supporting highly-skilled jobs and bringing further employment to the area.”

These new trains will provide enhanced comfort with features such as leather seats (first class), stain resistant seats and an air conditioning/heating system.

The Class 197 trains also come equipped with a smart seat reservations system. Seat reservations will be downloaded from the reservation computer each time train crew change ends on the train.

The £30 million CAF factory at Celtic Business Park near Llanwern Steelworks in Newport has grown from just 12 employees in 2016 to more than 200 today.