Government voices ambition to make hydrogen trains ‘a priority’ in future

The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains on the UK rail network will be “a priority” for the government in the coming years.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that the DfT would likely be pursuing different types of power for trains, some similar to the bi-mode stock which is currently being used on partly electrified routes.

The department has also indicated that it would be willing to consider hydrogen stock on the Great Western network between London and the West Country and as an alternative on smaller lines which are unlikely to be electrified.

The move towards hydrogen has become important because it can be used to power new stock without emitting anything other than water vapour, replacing the diesel which is used across most of the UK.

“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,” Grayling said in a Commons debate last week.

“I want the first hydrogen trains to operate on our rail network within a short period of time.”

However, the issue came up a second time this week when the secretary was questioned by the Transport Select Committee on electrification projects he cancelled last year.

Grayling was asked about the use of bi-mode as an alternative to full electrification, which was found to be not cost-efficient or too disruptive in certain areas.

“I’ve talked to senior people in the industry who believe there will only be one generation of diesel engines on the bi-modes and the second generation will be hydrogen engines,” he said.

Bi-mode diesel services have come under-fire because they cost a lot to maintain compared to regular diesel-only services or fully electrical stock.

Plus, diesel bi-modes are heavier because of the extra fuel and equipment which has to be carried, which is believed to cause further damage to tracks than regular trains.

So far, Vivarail and Alstom have led the way in testing hydrogen powered rolling stock, with the former securing funding last summer to further develop its prototype D-Train.

The latter also completed a successful test run of its own hydrogen-powered train in March. The Times also reported last week that the company was in initial talks with UK operators to get the rolling stock on the UK network.

Top image: Peter Steffen DPA

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Anonymous   23/01/2018 at 12:38

And here comes "Hydrogen trains for the Marks Tey-Sudbury line" rubbish.

Icn   23/01/2018 at 14:24

Where does Wonder man Grayling think that the hydrogen will be stored on his promised miracle train of the future. The iLint train (pictured) carries it on the roof where there is more room in continental Europe due to the more generous loading gauge. Will be tricky in the UK if one pictures the large tanks on the roofs of hydrogen powered buses already running here. Also to note is that the iLint is a regional train and not an express passenger where the power demands are much greater (think of the current performance issues with the IETs currently coming into service).

Graham Nalty   23/01/2018 at 14:35

Surely it is too soon to take hydrogen powered seriously. They need to be tested in service and proved to work before any Government investment decisions can be taken.

Andrew Gwilt   24/01/2018 at 06:30

Could hydrogen powered trains could be ideal to operate on branch lines in England. Such as being used on Brighton-Ashford International to replace the Class 171’s to work on London Bridge-Uckfield. Aswell Hydrogen trains to operate on other branch lines in England such as: Slough-Windsor & Eton Central Maidenhead-Bourne End-Marlow Twyford-Henley-on-Thames West Ealing-Greenford Eastleigh-Romsey Stourbridge Junction-Stourbridge Town Hull-Scarborough Marks Tey-Sudbury (possibly) Hydrogen trains could be economic and friendly to the environment. If hydrogen trains could be used in England and possibly built in the UK. Hydrogen trains could also operate on major railway lines such as the Midland Main Line to replace the Class 43 HST’s used on London-Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby and Leicester mainline services.

Ampox   24/01/2018 at 11:25

Most of the hydrogen is likely to be produced by electrolysis - so why not use electricity directly and more efficiently? Has anyone worked out the costs of very high pressure hydrogen supply infrastructure required to enable a worthwhile weight to be carried - I think 180 bar (atmospheres) has been suggested.

Andrew JG   25/01/2018 at 00:44

I find Hydrogen trains very interesting and very good for the environment. But I would say that Hydrogen trains may not be ideal to operate in the UK. And hydrogen is very dangerous. Unless it’s been controlled, processed and tested to make it safe then it could be ideal to operate in the UK.

Andrewg Wilt   25/01/2018 at 12:51

I like trains and especially the Hydrogen trains that could be very good for to operate in the UK but it is very dangerous so I don't like them as they might not be ideal to operate in the UK but they might be ideal for the UK as they are good for the trees and the birds but maybe not ideal to operate in the UK on the Marks Tey - Sudbury branch.

GW   25/01/2018 at 20:53

One serious accident and the cards will all come tumbling down. Why is no one mentioning the environmental impact of all the batteries for those trains as well? None so blind as those that don't want to see.

Andrew Gwilt   26/01/2018 at 01:31

Andrewg Wilt. Troll aren’t you. A troll who thinks it’s funny to use my name and to take the mick out of me. Disgraceful.

John Grant   26/01/2018 at 12:26

@Ampox: Hydrogen infrastructure might still be less than OLE. And if produced from wind power can still be used when the wind isn't blowing. @GW: Why would they need batteries? Apart from storing the energy from braking (assuming the fuel cells can't run in reverse), where supercapacitors would probably be better anyway. I'd still like to know how the weight of fuel cells compares with diesel.

Nonsuchmike   13/02/2018 at 13:55

This is nonsense. It is like re-inventing the hydrogen filled airship - a non starter in the 21st century. Finding more efficient ways to make & use electricity and store it: now that IS a challenge worth attempting.

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