The UK's New Zero-Carbon Trains Are Fantastic for the Environment

Upgrading the existing railroad stock without having to electrify the tracks means that diesel engines can be phased out faster


(Courtesy Alstom / Eversholt Rail)

Quiet running, water emitting hydrogen-fueled trains will be breezing down the tracks in the UK in less than three years. That will allow for 100 polluting diesel engines to be phased out on around 100 trains.

The hydrogen train has been named the Breeze and will be based on the British Rail Class 321 trains built from 1988.

Being able to upgrade existing stock without having to electrify the railroads will save both time and money in meeting the 2040 goal of eliminating diesel engines from the rail network entirely.

To date, only 40 percent of the UK's railway is electrified, and the majority of trains run on diesel which is very polluting and contributes to global warming.

The innovative technical solution that will allow a hydrogen train to fit the standard UK loading gauge will actually provide more space for passengers than the current trains. The new trains will have a top speed of 145 Km/h (90 mph).

“Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further. We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes,” said Andrew Jones MP, UK Rail Minister in a press release.

“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. 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," said Claire Perry MP, UK Minister for Energy and Clean Growth.

“The UK is on track when it comes to growing a world-leading hydrogen economy, and through our modern industrial strategy we are providing £23m to power our ambition to be the ‘go-to’ place for first-class hydrogen transport," she added.

Alstom, the company that will build the trains, has already introduced hydrogen trains in Germany with the rollout of the Coradia iLint hydrogen trains in September 2018 and there is a growing interest in this technology worldwide. Hydrogen train technology is sure to decarbonize and revolutionize the railroad industry.

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