The UK’s first hydrogen-powered train is running on the mainline today (September 30), with plans to retrofit the technology to current trains from 2023 to help meet the UK's net-zero targets.
The trials of the train, known as HydroFlex, have been supported by a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) and follow almost two years’ development work and more than £1 million of investment by both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who visited the start of trials in Warwickshire, also announced plans for Tees Valley to become a Hydrogen Transport Hub, bringing together representatives from academia, industry and government with aim of the region becoming a global leader in the green hydrogen sector.
To kick-start the development in Tees Valley, the DfT has commissioned a masterplan to understand the feasibility of the hub and how it can accelerate the UK’s ambitions in hydrogen. The DfT said that the masterplan, expected to be published in January, will pave the way for exploring how green hydrogen could power buses, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), rail, maritime and aviation transport across the UK.
The Government also announced plans for £6.3 million of funding for a green hydrogen refuelling station and 19 hydrogen-powered refuse vehicles in Glasgow as part of its £23 million Hydrogen for Transport Programme.
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’re 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, described today's mainline testing as a "major milestone for HydroFlex" and a "clear demonstration of the important role hydrogen has to play in the UK’s rail industry".
As part of the next stage of HydroFlex, the university is developing a hydrogen and battery-powered module that can be fitted underneath the train, allowing more space for passengers in the train’s carriage.