So far in the UK, the work on Hydrogen-powered trains has been focused on upcycling older trains into “new” trains. Well, Alstom is to work with Eversholt Rail to develop a new-build Hydrogen Multiple Unit.
Both Alstom and Eversholt Rail announced a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at delivering the UK’s first-ever brand-new hydrogen train fleet.
The two companies have agreed to work together, sharing technical and commercial information necessary for Alstom to design, build, commission and support a fleet of ten three-car hydrogen multiple units (HMUs). These will be built by Alstom in Britain.
The new HMU fleet will be based on the latest evolution of the Alstom Aventra platform and the intention is that final contracts for the fleet will be signed in early 2022. The Aventra platform (originally developed by Bombardier) is currently rolling out for Crossrail (Elizabeth Line), London Overground, South Western Railway, Greater Anglia and West Midlands Railway.
This work builds Coradia iLint – which is in operational service in Germany and the Breeze concept unit in the United Kingdom.
Alstom and Eversholt Rail have previously worked together on a hydrogen rolling stock solution for the UK rail sector, through the proposed conversion of an existing Electric Multiple Unit to hydrogen power – the ‘Breeze’ project. Both companies now believe that there is a market for a fleet of new trains for use by train operators across Britain.
The Aventra single-deck train has been developed for the requirements of mainline train operations and is used from high-capacity metro systems to intercity services. Aventra trains are modular, from carriage length to interior layout and design. They can easily be modified for different customer requirements while retaining core benefits such as a lightweight carbody and low lifecycle costs.
Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s Managing Director, UK & Ireland said:
“COP26 is a reminder of just how urgent the need to decarbonise our world is. Rail is already the lowest emission transport mode, but we can do even more, and I am delighted that we have concluded this agreement with our friends at Eversholt Rail which will lead to Britain’s first ever fleet of new hydrogen trains.”
Mary Kenny, Eversholt Rail’s CEO said:
“It is important that we start sooner rather than later to decarbonise UK Rail if we are to meet the 2050 ‘net-zero’ target. Hydrogen propulsion will play an important role, and this project with Alstom will demonstrate how the private sector can work together to make a difference.”
Moving forward with alternative power sources, whilst ignoring the elephants in the room
As the UK rail industry seeks to meet targets when they can no longer purchase new diesel traction and must switch to other fuel sources, the search for reliable alternatively powered units goes on.
And whilst the UK government continues to go “Lalalalalalalalala” loudly when it comes to major electrification projects (that would both reduce carbon dioxide output, noise, whilst using centrally generated power sources), piecemeal work is still the name of the game, as they seek to serve those areas where it may be too expensive or not cost-effective to electrify – or to put in as a temporary measure.
Least of all, there’s the minor issue of hydrogen generation, storage and transportation, as well as where these trains might be deployed.
Those who need a reminder of what a “temporary measure” is in rail terms in the UK, I refer you to the Pacer family of trains that were built between 1980 and 1987, to last 20 years.
The last ones were removed from service earlier this year, putting a 20-year-old project into the best part of 41 years.
Whilst hydrogen will be part of the fuel mix going forward, there are still many questions to answer in the longer term of the exact nature of how trains will be powered off the wires or third rail – and both government and the industry needs to get a grip on these issues
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