UK’s first hydrogen train passes mainline test

30th September 2020 | Commercial Energy

The UK’s first hydrogen-powered train has successfully undertaken its first mainline test, achieving a top speed of 50 mph. Originally unveiled in June 2019, the HydroFLEX project is designed to demonstrate a practical application of hydrogen as the power source for a full-size passenger train. Based on a Class 319 electric multiple unit, the HydroFLEX vehicle is fitted with hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and battery pack to provide independent traction power capable of operation with zero carbon emissions.

HydroFLEX is led by rolling stock owner Porterbrook, in partnership with the Birmingham Center for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) with support from Ricardo in the key area of safety case development and certification. The HydroFLEX vehicle successfully undertook its first phase of mainline testing achieving a top speed of 50 mph, for which Porterbrook sought the assistance of Ricard in the crucial areas of safety and certification.

Hydrogen Train

In order for mainline testing to be allowed to proceed, the vehicle required approval by an EN17065 accredited certification body and an EN17020 accredited inspection body. Ricardo fulfilled these requirements with rolling stock experts preparing the vehicle Safety Case, while colleagues from Ricardo Certification undertook an assessment in accordance with RIS-270-RST, producing an Attestation Statement along with the Safety Assessment Report as the project’s Assessment Body. This means that HydroFLEX is now able to commence with testing on Network Rail’s mainline infrastructure.

HydroFLEX was originally developed by Porterbrook and BCRRE as a response to the UK government’s challenge to remove diesel-only trains from the national network by 2040. The concept may in the future enable the electric multiple units to operate by drawing energy from an overhead catenary or conductor rail, but transition seamlessly to zero emission self-powered operation beyond the reach of existing electrification. The vehicle could thus serve many routes currently operated using diesel power, while also providing better utilization of existing power infrastructure on routes that traverse both electrified and non-electrified sections.

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