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Transport secretary calls for hydrogen trains

Amit Katwala

(Credit: Alstom)
(Credit: Alstom)

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said the introduction of hydrogen-powered trains is “a priority” for Britain’s railways.

“I expect to see a transformation of technology on our railways over the coming years, with the introduction of different types of battery electric hybrid trains, and I see that as a priority,” said Grayling during a debate in the House of Commons last week. “I want the first hydrogen trains to operator on our rail network within a short period of time.”

Hydrogen is sought after as a power source for all kinds of vehicles because it only emits water vapour during operation. Currently, most British trains run on diesel, and efforts to increase electrification across the network have stalled.

Hydrogen technology is already being trialled in Germany. Alstom launched its hydrogen-powered iLint trains in September 2016, and recently signed a contract that will see 14 of the vehicles go into service in Lower Saxony from 2021.

The trains will be capable of travelling over 600 miles on a full tank of hydrogen, with a top speed of 87mph. “For the first time worldwide, a hydrogen-fuelled passenger regional train will replace diesel trains, generating zero emission with the same performance as a regular regional train and up to 1,000 km autonomy,” said Gian Luca Erbacci, senior vice president for Europe at Alstom.

According to The Times, the government has earmarked the Great Western network between London and the West Country as a potential testbed for hydrogen trains. “We strongly support the government’s decision to consult on bringing hydrogen trains to the Great Western route,” said Nick Crossfield, managing director of Alstom UK & Ireland. “Hydrogen is the most sustainable and efficient way of eliminating pollution on non-electrified rail lines and Alstom’s hydrogen technology is already being proven in Germany.”


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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