Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (‘BCRRE’) announced that the UK’s first hydrogen train, HydroFLEX, will be tested on the mainline railway following a successful proof-of-concept.
The mainline testing of HydroFLEX marks an important step in the development of a zero-carbon emission propulsion system that could help to decarbonize Britain’s railway. The HydroFLEX pilot involves the fitment of a hydrogen powerpack to an existing Class 319 train, which would eventually allow it to run on conventional electrified routes as well as independently. This results in a highly flexible train that can operate on different parts of Britain’s rail network.
Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, said: “Sustainability and innovation are integral to what we do here at Porterbrook, and so we are tremendously proud to have played a key role in designing and building the UK’s first hydrogen train. This is a first test but we are excited about being in a position to provide HydroFLEX as a viable offering very soon. Britain’s railway has a key part to play in reducing transport emissions and we are committed to helping our customers play an important role in delivering this.”
Alex Burrows, Director at Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, commented: “This is a great success story for the UK Rail Industry, which shows our capability and commitment to helping the government meet decarbonisation targets. Key to this success is the close partnership between academia and industry which has enabled us to pool the expertise needed to rapidly progress this technology from concept to full-scale working demonstrator.”
Dr Stuart Hillmansen, Senior Lecturer, Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education noted: “Our prototype shows how hydrogen powered technology can be incorporated within existing trains, without needing to modify the drivers’ controls. It’s an exciting advance because it shows how this technology could be adopted into the mainline system to deliver emission-free public transport.”
Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling said: “It is fantastic to see government funding helping to drive this innovative project forward, as it progresses to the milestone of mainline testing.
Our First of a Kind investment has consistently produced truly ambitious projects developed for the benefit of passengers and freight customers. We are absolutely committed to driving forward a greener, cleaner and more efficient rail network, using new technology to create modern, low-emission trains which can handle a growing number of journeys.”
Many collaborators have been key to the success of HydroFLEX so far: Chrysalis Rail for installation, Denchi Group for traction batteries, Ballard Power Systems for the fuel cell, Luxfer for hydrogen storage tanks, DG8 design support, Derby Engineering Unit for panels and brackets, SNC Lavalin for design and hazard identifications, Aura for exterior livery design and dB Cargo Crewe for the recommissioning of the unit.
The HydroFLEX project has recently been awarded funding from Innovate UK through its First Of A Kind competition to take the prototype forward towards mainline testing.