First UK hydrogen-powered train on track after deal struck

Porterbrook, the Derby-based investment company that owns 30 per cent of the UK rail stock, has entered into an agreement with the University of Birmingham to create the country’s first hydrogen-powered train.

The memorandum of understanding with Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) was signed at Innotrans in Berlin.

The agreement will see Porterbrook provide a Class 319 electric unit to BCRRE for conversion by its technical and research experts into a hydrogen-powered train.

This will allow both organisations to demonstrate how this fuel-of-the-future might be deployed across the UK’s rail network.

Testing and demonstration runs of the HydroFlex will take place in summer 2019.

The HydroFlex will retain the ability to operate across existing electric routes and with the addition of a hydrogen fuel-cell it will also be capable of operating in self-powered mode, without the need for diesel engines.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook chief executive, 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, added:

“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.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling 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.”

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