Rail Minister Jo Johnson called in February for the removal of all diesel rolling stock by 2040. Nearly a third of all the UK’s trains are diesel trains, which will need to be replaced or refurbished to reach this target. A train fuelled by hydrogen would emit no carbon, particulates or engine noise, providing substantial improvements for air quality and noise pollution.
French train manufacturer, Alstom, is set to become the first company to bring hydrogen trains to the UK, converting a fleet of Class 321 electric trains by fitting hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to power them. The electrical energy is intermediately stored in batteries and the train is powered by an electrical traction drive. The fuel cell produces electricity by recombining hydrogen and oxygen to produce water, emitting only water vapour from the exhaust.
The company said the move was the “first substantive industry response” to the Government’s call. The move will be welcomed by the Government, particularly as hydrogen-powered trains reduce the need for electrified lines.
Alstom will carry out the work at its site in Widnes, Cheshire and will also partner on the project Eversholt Rail.
Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s UK and Ireland boss, said: “On cost, hydrogen trains can help to avoid the necessity for line electrification, which represents a significant investment for customers.”