The United Nations has demanded that children’s TV show Thomas the Tank Engine eliminates the sex of its fictional trains so they become gender neutral. 

The change will mean the end of Henry and Edward, two of Thomas’s friends who appeared in the original books written by Rev Wilbert Awdry.

Express.co.uk reports: They are being replaced in the Tidmouth Sheds by two female engines including Nia – the first African engine, developed with the help of the UN.

Thomas will leave his home on the Island of Sodor for the first time for adventures abroad, in episodes that support the United Nations’ “sustainable development goals”.

But last night critics claimed Thomas has become the latest victim of an out-of-control culture of political correctness.

Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe said she “could not imagine” why the UN would be consulted by programme makers.

She said: “I can’t believe people are being so po-faced about Thomas. Children aren’t interested in these sort of issues.”

And there was an angry backlash on social media.

Nia will be one of two new female characters as Thomas leaves Sodor for more exotic locationsOwen Richards wrote: “The books all already have a moral, as you would expect written by a vicar; you don’t need to consult the UN over kids’ TV!”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Yet another classic destroyed by this PC culture!”

The tradition of a Liverpudlian narrator – which began with Ringo Starr – will disappear, as will the theme tune and roll-call of engines.

The overhaul, which begins next year, is the most significant transformation since the TV version was first broadcast in 1984.