First ever hydrogen train runs on UK mainline

The first ever journey of a hydrogen-powered train on a UK mainline has taken place as part of a major project.

The scheme, run by the University of Birmingham and the Department for Transport, has seen a £750,000 grant provided to the HydroFLEX project. It follows two years of development work and an additional £1m investment by the University of Birmingham and rolling stock company Porterbrook.

Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases, instead using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat.

The technology behind the trains will also be available by 2023 to retrofit current in-service trains to hydrogen helping decarbonise the rail network and make rail journeys greener and more efficient.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who met with leading rail experts from the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) onsite to see first-hand HydroFLEX on the mainline.

Bringing together representatives from academia, industry and government to drive forward the UK’s plans to embrace the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel could create hundreds of jobs while seeing the region become a global leader in the green hydrogen sector, he claimed.

Shapps said: “As we continue on our road to a green recovery, we know that to really harness the power of transport to improve our country – and to set a global gold standard – we must truly embed change.

“That’s why I’m delighted that through our plans to build back better we are embracing the power of hydrogen and the more sustainable, greener forms of transport it will bring.”

Professor Stephen Jarvis, Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “BCRRE is setting the pace for rail innovation both in the UK and globally.

The HydroFLEX project is a great example of how world-class R&D, together with the right industry partnerships, can deliver decarbonisation technologies that are both innovative and practical.

“Successful mainline testing is a major milestone for HydroFLEX and is a clear demonstration of the important role hydrogen has to play in the UK’s rail industry. Through BCRRE and Porterbrook, we are looking forward to delivering this technology into the UK transport market, ensuring a cleaner future for our railways.”

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