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Hydrogen-powered trains could be on Britain’s railways by 2022

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A partnership between Alstom and Eversholt Rail is set to bring zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells to British railways by 2022. 

The Breeze is a zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powered train developed by Alstom for Evershot Rail
(Image via Alstom)

Named “Breeze”, the trains will convert traditional British Rail Class 321 trains from traditional diesel to hydrogen. Alstom claim that this design is the first that will allow hydrogen fuel cells to fit within a standard UK loading gauge. 

“The Breeze will be a clean new train for the UK with a stylish, modern look,” said Nick Crossfield, Alstom UK & Ireland Managing Director. 

“The railways need to decarbonise and the government has rightly set out a goal to eliminate diesel rolling stock by 2040.”

“Hydrogen trains offer an ideal solution for routes which are unlikely to benefit from electrification, and our innovative engineering solution means they can now fit within the UK loading gauge and can quickly be ready to roll on Britain’s railways.”

The Breeze hydrogen powered trains are planned to be on Britain's rails within the next three years
(Image via Alstom)

The design converts the train’s electrical multiple units (EMUs) to hydrogen multiple units (HMUs). Hydrogen will be converted into electricity, which will be used to run the motor.

According to Alstom, this will combine the efficiency and practicality of the existing rolling stock with the versatility and environmental benefits of hydrogen fuel cells - from which the only emission is clean water.

Though this will be the first to convert Britain’s trains to hydrogen power, Alstom’s designs are already in use in Germany. The Coradio iLint hydrogen train was introduced in September last year, operating daily passenger services. The company also claim that the president of France’s Occitanie region has expressed interest in adopting the technology. 

“In Germany, Alstom’s hydrogen trains are already transporting passengers in the comfort and quiet that is characteristic of these trains. The Breeze offers British rail users the opportunity to share in the pleasure that is a journey on a hydrogen train.”

Conversion will be taking place over the next three years in Alstom’s facility in Widnes, after which they will be owned by Eversholt and leased out to rail operators. They will operate in areas without widespread electrification, on rural and inter-urban routes that don’t currently use third rails or overhead lines. 

The Breeze will have more passenger space and a quieter ride than traditional trains
(Image via Alstom)

As well as the environmental benefits, the hydrogen-powered trains will allow more room for passengers than the current trains, and provide a much quieter experience than diesel-powered trains.

“Transport in the UK has evolved over centuries from the world’s first steam train to the tens of thousands of electric vehicles on our roads today thanks to our nation of innovators,”  said Claire Perry MP, UK Minister for Energy and Clean Growth.

“This new hydrogen powered train, which will only emit water, is further proof of the UK’s continued creativity to transform the way we travel as we continue to move to a greener, cleaner economy. The UK is on track when it comes to growing a world-leading hydrogen economy, and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are providing £23 million to power our ambition to be the ‘go-to’ place for first-class hydrogen transport.”

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Recent Comments
Very interesting news but I see no crash-testing info re hydrogen cells. Why not? Am I missing something here? If terrorists hi-jacked one of these multi-cell trains to either crash or explode.........Would it not be more efficient and less costly to produce Brown's Gas on a JIT basis? (Similar to my Range Rover conversion as shown here: The Brown's Gas would be produced by electronic power from roof-mounted turbines, surplus power to be stored on-board in battery format. The point I am making is that with my system there is no need for hydrogen storage tanks and therefore ~ explosion risk is eliminated.
Patrick Lee, 09 January 2019
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Hydrogen-powered trains could be on Britain’s railways by 2022 - Time to read 3 min
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