Porterbrook aim to create first UK hydrogen train

21st September 2018

Porterbrook has entered into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (‘BCRRE’) to create the UK’s first hydrogen powered train, the project has been christened 'Hydroflex'.

The MoU was signed at the Innotrans convention in Berlin and will see Porterbrook provide a ‘Class 319’ electric unit to BCRRE for conversion by their technical and research experts into a hydrogen powered train. Both organisations can then evaluate how this type of train might be deployed on the UK network in the future.

The intention is to retain the 3rd rail or 25kV overhead capability, while the fuel-cell will also enable the train t operate over other lines without the need for a diesel engine.

Earlier this year the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson MP, challenged the industry to develop decarbonisation plans with a clear goal of removing diesel only trains from the network by 2040. Hydroflex is a direct response to this challenge.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said: "I am delighted that BCRRE have chosen to work with Porterbrook on this exciting fuel-cell project. The HydroFlex will not only showcase rail innovation, it will also demonstrate how the private sector railway can effectively partner with educational bodies to jointly deliver real benefits to passengers, train operators and the communities our railways serve."

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, Senior Lecturer in Railway Systems at BCRRE, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Porterbrook on this hugely exciting project. Hydrogen powered trains offer a cleaner alternative to current diesel trains and this project demonstrates the opportunities and value of innovation in the rail industry."

The Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, said: “This exciting relationship between Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham is a great example of how forward-thinking businesses and our world class universities can work together to deliver innovation that matters. I look forward to seeing the HydroFlex train coming to the UK railway in the very near future."

Author: Darren Porter
Image: Porterbrook