A railway pressure group is calling on the UK government to throw its weight behind a new fleet of hydrogen-powered trains to help modernise existing rolling stock and get the nation's transport policy back on track.
The Railway Industry Association (RIA) – which can trace its roots back more than 140 years to when its members were busy building steam locos – wants government to support pilot projects to test the viability of hydrogen not only as a clean source of fuel but as a way to boost economic growth.
"Hydrogen trains will have a vital role to play – alongside conventional electrification – as the UK looks to develop a Net Zero economy by 2050," said the RIA in a briefing note.
It noted that other countries are "already making progress in developing hydrogen trains" with RIA members Alstom's iLint hydrogen train fleet running in Austria and Siemens partnering with DeutscheBahn to develop a prototype train in Germany.
In the UK, train-leasing outfit Porterbrook and boffins at the University of Birmingham are continuing to put their Hydroflex train through its paces with trials continuing to run this summer.
- Intel sponsors report on tech's role in decarbonisation and the irony isn't lost on us
- Wyoming powers ahead with Bill Gates-backed sodium-cooled nuclear generation plant
- Hydrogen-powered train tested on Britain's railway tracks as diesel alternative
- Electric vehicles won't help UK meet emissions targets: Time to get out and walk, warn MPs
At present, the RIA notes that hydrogen trains can reach up to 100mph with a range of up to 800 miles.
"These trains would, therefore, be a plausible direct replacement for existing diesel passenger rolling stock on longer and less intensively used regional routes, with speeds of 100mph or less, where there is no economic case for electrification," said the RIA.
One of the stumbling blocks faced by hydrogen-powered train operators is the lack of infrastructure needed to make engines run.
"Green hydrogen is needed to power fuel cell engines and hydrogen of the right quality and purity is in short supply. With some initial investment in the sector for infrastructure, the roll-out of hydrogen fleets can occur," said the RIA.
Details of the government's Hydrogen Strategy remain under lock and key. However, it's anticipated that the report will be published before the summer recess at the end of July. ®