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With the first hydrogen-powered trains in passenger service, there is little holding back a shift to net-zero emissions mobility.
Aurizon will invest $50m in low carbon locomotives such as battery and hydrogen-powered trains to meet a net zero goal by 2050.
The freight hauler and network owner will also look to maximise the benefits of the electrified freight network in Queensland, particularly as more renewable energy is fed into the grid.
Managing director and CEO of Aurizon, Andrew Harding said that the company was confident that technology would meet the company’s goals.
“We are confident that rapidly-advancing technology in the rail sector will unlock major benefits like we are seeing in motor vehicles, energy generation and general industry. Our focus will be low-carbon technology for our locomotive fleet which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Aurizon’s CO2 emissions.”
In addition to actions undertaken internally, Aurizon will also push for government action.
“We directly advocate for policy actions to increase the use of rail freight on key national freight corridors. Our aim is to ensure that rail freight remains competitive and part of the solution as the economy transitions to a low-carbon future,” said Harding.
The company’s commitment follows the latest Sustainability Report from the freight operator. In the report, Aurizon advocates for lowered electricity costs to reduce the risk of substituting electric locomotives for diesel-powered trains. In addition, Aurizon outlines that the company has been advocating for greater infrastructure investment, improvements to regulation and finding efficiencies at interfaces between modes.
To meet the goal of lower emissions, Aurizon said that it would be making significant investments in new rollingstock shortly.
“Aurizon is already working with other railroads and manufacturers on the early development of battery and hydrogen-powered locomotives for deployment in a heavy-haul railway environment. This includes options of upgrades to the existing fleet and new rollingstock. We would expect to see prototypes trialling on our network by 2025, as technology advances and costs come down further,” said Harding.
“Locomotives are long-life assets of 20 – 30 years. We have some significant decisions ahead in renewing our locomotive fleet – potential game-changers for the freight industry – when we invest in the next generations of rollingstock to power our business through to 2050.”
Hydrogen trains have met all four test requirements in a trial conducted in the Dutch province of Groningen.
Local operator Arriva trialled Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains, in partnership with railway infrastructure manager ProRail and energy company Engie over two weeks in March, 2020. The trains were tested on the line between Groningen and Leeuwarden.
The trial had four objectives for the hydrogen-powered trains: authorisation by the Dutch national safety assessor to run on the Dutch railway network; zero emissions in the commercial service of the current timetable; quick and easy refuelling; and familiarising the general public with hydrogen mobility.
On all four objectives, the trains met the requirements.
“The tests have demonstrated how our hydrogen train is mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as diesel equipment, and with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. The Coradia iLint hydrogen train supports the transition towards global sustainable transport systems,” said Bernard Belvaux, managing director, Alstom Benelux.
To meet the commercial service performance requirement, the trains were tested on an all stations service and an express timetable. The trains were tested on fuel consumption, compatibility with infrastructure, acceleration, braking, docking, and maximum speed. All went without a hitch.
During the trials, the trains were found to be significantly quieter than current diesel trains. Drivers were also familiarised with the trains and found them smooth, comfortable, and easy to drive.
Powered by hydrogen produced from renewable energy, refuelling went faster than expected and was conducted safely.
The Netherlands follows Germany in testing Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trainsets.
“After Germany, the Netherlands is the second country in Europe where the Alstom’s hydrogen train has proven itself a unique emissions-free solution for non-electrified lines,” said Belvaux.
Other trails and plans for implementation are being developed in Austria, Italy, and the UK.
The next European operator to begin trails of hydrogen trains will be Austrian rail company ÖBB.
In partnership with Alstom, ÖBB will run the hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint in passenger service until the end of November in a trial.
The Coradia iLint has been trialled successfully in Northern Germany and trials in the Netherlands have been conducted in 2020. Agreements with rail companies in Italy and the UK have also been signed in 2020 to progress the delivery of hydrogen-powered rollingstock in those countries.
In the Austrian trial, the trains will be run on unelectrified lines in the south of the country which are geographically challenging.
Jörg Nikutta, Alstom’s CEO in Germany and Austria said the trains would fill a gap in the decarbonisation of rail.
“The train’s emission-free drive technology offers a climate-friendly alternative to conventional diesel trains, especially on non-electrified lines.”
Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB-Holding AG said the company was looking at new technology that could make rail more environmentally friendly.
“As the largest climate protection company in Austria, we are actively shaping the mobility of the future with technological alternatives.”
The Austrian trial comes as the UK rail sector looks to fully decarbonise, with hydrogen-powered trains to play a key role. The Interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy, put together by Network Rail in partnership with the rail industry, sets out which lines will be electrified and where alternative traction technologies will be used to meet the net zero carbon emissions target.
The strategy identified 11,700 kilometres of track where electrification would take place, battery operation on 400km and hydrogen on 900km. To do this, between 150 and 200 battery and hydrogen trains would be required.
Rail manufacturer Alstom has joined with gases and engineering company Linde to build and operate a hydrogen filling station to support hydrogen trains on the Elbe-Weser network, in the German state of Lower Saxony.
The hydrogen filling station will provide the fuel for the operation of Alstom’s Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered trains, which completed a test phase in February.
While operating passenger services, the trains were able to replace diesel-powered services, and only emit water vapour and condensation.
Completion of the filling station is expected in mid-2021 and 14 hydrogen trains will be utilising the facility by the beginning of 2022.
Once filled at the station, the trains will be able to run for up to 1,000km, meaning they only require one tank filling. The station has room for expansion to produce hydrogen on site through electrolysis and regenerative electricity.
Hydrogen is a key fuel in the decarbonisation of rail where electrification is not possible, facilities such as the filling station will enable emissions-free transport and support Germany’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.
“The construction of the hydrogen filling station in Bremervörde will create the basis for the series operation of our emission-free hydrogen trains in the Weser-Elbe network,” said Jörg Nikutta, managing director Germany and Austria of Alstom.
Mathias Kranz, responsible at Linde for the onsite and bulk business in Germany, said the switch to hydrogen would improve environmental outcomes.
“The introduction of hydrogen as a fuel for trains will significantly reduce the burden on the environment, as one kilogram of hydrogen replaces approximately 4.5 litres of diesel fuel.”
According to Andreas Wagner, head of local rail passenger transport and signatory of the Elbe-Weser Railways and Transport Company, the introduction of hydrogen trains has promoted interest in rail from passengers and motivated drivers.
“Our passengers were very curious about the trains and their technology from the very beginning. In addition to the very low noise level, the hydrogen train impresses with its zero emissions, especially in times of climate change. For our train drivers, the operation of iLint was a very special motivation,” he said.
UK rollingstock owner Eversholt Rail will join forces with Alstom to produce a new class of hydrogen-powered trains to decarbonise the UK rail sector.
With a combined investment of £1 million ($1.78m), the new trains nicknamed Breeze will be re-engineered versions of Eversholt’s Class 321 fleet, which have been in use on the UK rail network since 1988.
The hydrogen powered trains will be built at Alstom’s Widnes Transport Technology Centre near Liverpool and are expected to create 200 jobs in the North West region of England. Alstom will use its hydrogen train technology that has been in service in the Coradia iLint trains.
Nick Crossfield, managing director of Alstom UK and Ireland, said that the new trains would support the UK government’s initiatives in hydrogen power.
“It’s time to jump-start the UK hydrogen revolution. With the government looking to invest in green technologies, Alstom and Eversholt Rail have deepened our already extensive commitment to this job-creating technology with a further million-pound investment.”
The partnership expects the trains to fill the gap in zero-emission services where electrification of lines is not possible. This would be particularly the case on regional rail services.
Alstom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint trains have run trial passenger services in Germany and the Netherlands, and Alstom recently signed a deal to prepare for the introduction of hydrogen trains in Italy.
CEO of Eversholt Rail Mary Kenny said the hydrogen trains extended a commitment to innovation.
“Eversholt Rail has a proud record of innovation in key rolling stock technologies and this further investment in the Breeze programme demonstrates our commitment to providing timely, cost-effective solutions to the identified need for hydrogen trains to support the decarbonisation of the UK railway.”
The UK government aims to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040 and Alstom and Eversholt rail expect to have the first Breeze trains in service by 2024.
Train manufacturer Alstom and Italian energy infrastructure company Snam have signed a five-year agreement to pave the way for hydrogen trains to run in Italy. Read more