The Anonymous Widower

Alstom And Eversholt Rail Develop Hydrogen Train For Britain

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in the International Rail Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

Alstom confirmed on September 11 that it is working with British rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail to refit class 321 EMUs with hydrogen tanks and fuel cells for hydrogen operation, in response to the British government’s challenge to eliminate diesel operation on the national network by 2040.

Other points about the conversion of Class 321 trains include.

  • Alstom will convert trains in batches of fifteen.
  • The first trains could be ready by 2021.
  • Up to a hundred trains could be converted..
  • A range of up to 1000 km on a tank of hydrogen.
  • A maximum speed of 160 kph.

The article also suggests that the Tees Valley Line and Liverpool to Widnes could be two routes for the trains.

A few points of my own.

  • Fifteen is probably a suitable batch size considering how Class 769 trains have been ordered.
  • Hydrogen is produced in both areas for the possible routes and could be piped to the depots.
  • In Runcorn it is plentiful supply from the chlorine cell rooms of INEOS and that company is thinking of creating a pipeline network to supply the hydrogen to users with high energy needs.
  • As the maximum speed of the hydrogen train is the same as the current Class 321 trains, I would suspect that it is likely that the hydrogen-powered train will not have an inferior performance.
  • I’ve now travelled in Class 321 Renatus trains on three occasions and in common with several passengers I’ve spoken to, I like them.
  • I hope the Class 321 Hydrogen trains have as good an interior!

I very much feel that there is a good chance that the Class 321 Hydrogen could turn out to be a good train, powered by a fuel, that is to a large extent, is an unwanted by-product of the chemical industry.

A Comparison Between The Alstom Coradia iLint And The Class 321 Hydrogen

It is difficult for me to compare the Alstom Coeadia iLint or even a bog-standard iLint , as I’ve never rode in either.

Hopefully, I’ll ride the iLint in the next few weeks.

The following statistics are from various sources on the Internet

  • Cars – 321 – 4 – iLint – 2
  • Electric Operation – 321 – Yes – iLint – Not Yet!
  • Loading Gauge – 321 – UK – iLint – European
  • Operating Speed – 321 – 160 kph – iLint – 140 kph
  • Range – 321 – 1000 km. – iLint – 500-800 km.
  • Seats – 321 – 309 – iLint – 150-180

Although the Class 321 Hydrogen will be a refurbished train and the iLint will be new, I suspect passengers will just both trains as similar, given the experience with refurbished trains in the UK.

In some ways, they are not that different in terms of performance and capacity per car.

But the Class 321 Hydrogen does appear to have one big advantage – It can run at up to 160 kph on a suitable electrified line, This ability also means the following.

  • Hydrogen power is not the sole way of charging the battery.
  • On some routes, where perhaps a twenty kilometre branch line, which is not electrified, is to be served, the train might work as a battery-electric train.
  • A smaller capacity hydrogen power unit could be fitted for charging the battery, when the train is turned back at a terminal station and for rescuing trains with a flat battery.
  • The depot and associated filling station, doesn’t have to be where the trains run most of their passenger services.

I also suspect that a Class 321 hydrogen could run on the UK’s third-rail network after modification, if required.

If you were an operator choosing between the two trains, you would probably find that because of your location, there would be a strong preference for one of the two trains.

I also doubt we’ll see iLints running in the UK because of the loading gauge problem.

Will the platform height scupper the running of Class 321 Hydrogen trains in Europe?

In Riding Docklands Light Railway Trains In Essen, I reported on seeing redundant Docklands Light Railway trains running in Essen.

For this reason, I wouldn’t totally rule out Class 321 Hydrogen trains invading Europe!


September 14, 2018 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. there doesn’t seem to be much new in the IRJ article compared to what was already announced in May apart from the range of 1000km – which is massive. The difference from the iLint is presumably because the 321s are bigger and so there’s more room for fuel tanks. Because of the range, I actually see hydrogen as a better bet for trains ATM than batteries on their own. The batteries can be used for storing energy from regenerative braking.

    Fuel cells haven’t got anywhere up till now because of (a) the cost of creating hydrogen from hydrocarbons and (b) distributing the stuff once you’ve made it. Electrolysis isn’t particularly efficient, but if you’re using renewable energy to power it, or as you say using hydrogen from the chemicals industry that would otherwise go to waste, that doesn’t matter and the fuel cost is effectively zero. Distribution isn’t the problem for trains that it is for private cars, as you only have to supply the depot (or somewhere where the trains sit for long enough to refuel). Assuming there are no major issues using the iLint in the real world, I think the industry should go full speed ahead on converting diesel power to hydrogen. This should be feasible well before the 2040 deadline everyone keeps quoting.

    The next stage is to work out how to convert the diesel locos used for hauling freight trains.

    If you want to ride the iLint, the 2 prototypes are supposed to be entering into service on Sunday. I have been thinking of taking a ride myself, though whether I’ll actually get around to it …

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 14, 2018 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the date. I might go later in the week, if the reports are good about a reliable service.

    Comment by AnonW | September 14, 2018 | Reply

  3. btw, if you’ve not seen it, the recent roadmap report from the Automotive Council (136pp) summarises how they see new technologies affecting road transport over the next 20 years. About as authoritative as it gets, I think.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 14, 2018 | Reply

  4. and Porterbrook is planning on a demo Class 319 next year with Brum uni

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 19, 2018 | Reply

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