Rail franchises operators & contracts

07.01.19

New hydrogen ‘Breeze’ trains unveiled by Alstom and Eversholt

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years after a deal has been struck to convert more than 100 trains into the first fleet powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The new trains, to be called “Breeze” trains, are due to be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021 in the project being led by French company Alstom.

The DfT is supporting the plan as it allows train operators to scrap diesel trains without the need to install extremely expensive overhead power lines which are needed to operate electric carriages.

The hydrogen trains have zero emissions and are nearly silent operating at speeds up to 90mph, with released steam the only by-product.

Less than half of the British rail network is currently electrified and around 2,500 commuter trains run on diesel, but the government has set a target of eradicating diesel altogether by 2040.

Alstom are leading the project alongside rolling stock company Eversholt Rail, with a fleet of Class 321 electric trains owned by Eversholt being identified for the project.

The trains are currently used on the Greater Anglia network, but will be phased out next year when the hydrogen conversion will start.

Alstom has released new images showing that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the process, with the front and rear third of the train used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

The Breeze trains will be converted at Alstom’s facility in Widnes.

UK rail minister Andrew Jones said: “Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further.

“We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes.”

Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s UK managing director, commented: “There is great opportunity to get better value for taxpayers by converting an existing fleet.

“It will reach the same top speed as a diesel and in terms of acceleration a train like this will perform much more effectively. But the main benefit is to the environment in terms of emissions, noise and the passenger experience.”

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