Introducing Alstom's Breeze trains

Source: RTM Feb/March 2019

Mike Muldoon, head of business development for Alstom UK & Ireland, introduces us to Alstom’s new hydrogen-powered Breeze trains, which could hit UK tracks as early as 2022.

On 7 January this year, Alstom and our partners Eversholt Rail announced a new train design that has the potential to revolutionise travel on non-electrified lines in the UK. The train, codenamed ‘Breeze,’ is a fully self-powered hydrogen fuel cell multiple vehicle (HMU) that builds on Alstom’s world leading hydrogen technology already in passenger service in Germany in the Coradia iLint trains. It offers the UK a cost-effective solution to introduce clean, green, hydrogen trains to the network. 

It’s worth reflecting on how hydrogen trains have captured the UK public’s imagination and how we have made such progress so quickly on them. Here, credit is due in large part to government – national and regional. Both the ex-rail minister Jo Johnson and the transport secretary Chris Grayling have been instrumental in putting down the 2040 challenge to industry to eliminate diesel-only trains.

Hydrogen trains can play a key part in responding to that challenge. While they are not the solution everywhere, Alstom also advocates for more electrification on mainlines in the UK. For regional lines where electrification was never going to be proposed, a hydrogen train with enough range to cover an entire day’s service pattern is the ideal solution. Regional political leaders – especially Steve Rotheram in Liverpool, where Alstom’s Widnes plant sits; and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley – have also been crucial supporters of hydrogen technology.

The innovative new Breeze train is entirely self-powered, emits nothing but water, and is ideally suited for replacing regional diesel trains across the UK. With a further nod towards environmental responsibility, the trains will be converted from Eversholt Rail’s existing Class 321 units by completely reengineering them for hydrogen power at Alstom’s Widnes technology centre, maintaining their operational life and avoiding any risk of them being lost to the industry. These trains could start running across the UK as early as 2022.  

Alstom is uniquely positioned to bring hydrogen trains to the UK because of our success already in producing trains that run on hydrogen power in Germany. The pre-series trains already on the network there have been crucial in the development of the UK-based solution. One of the Coradia iLints has, in fact, just completed a multi-city tour of Germany, ending in Berlin to demonstrate their pan-network capabilities. And the trains are already proving very popular with passengers due to their quiet and smooth ride qualities.

Talking technicalities, the same innovative hydrogen power solution that has been developed in Germany will be applied to the UK train. Coradia iLint uses two sets of high-powered hydrogen fuel cells, two sets of lithium ion batteries, and Alstom’s world-class energy management system ensuring that all these power sources operate together in the most efficient way possible.

This allows us to create a train that will offer more space and more seats than the two-car diesel multiple units they are designed to replace, as well as accommodating all the hydrogen fuel tanks at each end of the train. The new trains will also offer all the high-tech features that passengers rightly expect of a 21st century train like WiFi, at-seat power supplies, and the latest passenger information systems.

With the engineering concept design now complete, conversion of trains is planned to take place at Alstom’s Widnes facility as soon as orders are placed. That new work will also create high-quality engineering jobs and export potential for the UK in the future.

Passengers can look forward to trying out these revolutionary new trains in the next few years in the UK. They will be an exciting new addition to the national fleet!


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