Scotland’s First Hydrogen Powered Train

A project to develop Scotland’s first hydrogen powered train, as the first step in decarbonising Scotland’s rail network, is well underway.

Scotrail carriage loaded onto a truck, on its way to Bo-Ness, travelling past The Kelpies at Grangemouth, Forth and Clyde Canal.

Based at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, a Class 314 car passenger train will be converted and made available by ScotRail. The train will be used to further develop the technology with the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway providing engineering facilities and support for testing and public demonstrations.

The company leading the development are Arcola Energy in collaboration with Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland and the Hydrogen Accelerator, based at the University of St Andrews.

Arcola Energy will develop the technology platform for the train’s new powertrain from its planned new Scottish base. Arcola Energy, a privately owned company headquartered in London, with a manufacturing site in Liverpool and a new engineering and manufacturing facility planned in Dundee will develop their existing A-Drive platform. The intention is to reduce development time whilst still meeting rail safety and compliance requirements. The aim is to deliver the hydrogen powered train in 10 months.

Dr Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy said:

“Hydrogen traction power offers a safe, reliable and zero-carbon alternative for Scotland’s rail network. The hydrogen train project is an excellent opportunity for industry leaders in hydrogen, rail engineering and safety to collaborate with Scottish technology providers to develop a deployment ready solution.

“We are delighted to be working with Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland and the Hydrogen Accelerator, to support Scotland’s strategy to make passenger railways emission free by 2035.”

Commenting on the project, Michael Matheson, Transport Secretary in the Scottish Government said that it was a potential ‘game changer’:

” Our Rail decarbonisation Action Plan sets out to make our passenger railways emissions free by 2035, but to maximise our climate change ambitions, there is also a requirement to look at what we do with retired stock.

“If we can bring those back into use in a carbon neutral way, there are huge climate gains to be made.”

Hydroflex, the UK’s first Hydrogen powered train, took its maiden journey of a 25-mile round trip through Warwickshire and Worcestershire, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph, earlier this year. The HydroFLEX project is a partnership between the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education and railway rolling stock company, Porterbrook. 

The project in Scotland is supported by rail engineering and safety experts Arup and Abbott Risk Consulting to form an integrated delivery team, with AEGIS providing regulatory third-party verification.

Clare Lavelle, Scotland Energy Business Lead, Arup, explained:

“With Scotland’s focus on achieving net zero emissions by 2035 and rail playing a leading role in this, hydrogen offers a safe, reliable and zero carbon alternative to other forms of rail propulsion’

“This project is not only a crucial step in helping us understand the practical challenges of using hydrogen traction power on our railways, but an example of the type of investment Scotland needs to take advantage of the opportunity to build a secure, flexible, cost effective and zero carbon energy network.”

John Abbott, Managing Director of ARC (Abbott Risk Consulting), added:

“This is a really important project for us and for Scotland. We are already engaged in hydrogen fuel-cell trials for aviation. To be part of this consortium and to be able to apply our functional safety experience to such an important sustainability initiative for Scotland’s railways is a real privilege.”

Developing new technology always brings with it the necessity for safety compliance and for this project that will be provided by AEGIS Certification Services.

Mark McCool, AEGIS Managing Director said the company was delighted to be involved in such a ‘prestigious project’ and was looking forward to ” further develop this technology towards a carbon neutral rail network.”

Germany was the first country to deploy hydrogen powered trains. In September 2018, two Alstom-made hydrogen-powered trains went into use in Lower Saxony. By the end of 2022 it is expected that 14 trains will be delivered by the French based company.

The Consortium delivering the Scottish project, will demonstrate the hydrogen powered train during COP26, hosted by Glasgow City, from November 1-12, 2021.

The consortium includes:

  • Arcola Energy, project lead responsible for hydrogen fuel cell system engineering, design and integration, and project demonstration
  • Global engineering consultancy Arup, will provide specialist rail engineering expertise for technical concepts, high-level design and safety strategy. Arup’s Edinburgh office will also work with the Hydrogen Accelerator to chart the route to mainline deployment of hydrogen powered trains across Scotland
  • Abbott Risk Consulting, based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, will deliver specialist product development compliance and health and safety management
  • AEGIS Certification Services will provide third party safety certification and compliance verification
Michael Matheson MSP – Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (orange jacket) photographed with Dr. Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy (hi-viz waistcoat) and a 314 Class electric train at the Scotrail Yoker Depot in Yoker, Glasgow on 14th December 2020. The train has been decommissioned and was taken to Bo’ness where it will be converted to run on hydrogen.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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