The UK could see a fleet of hydrogen trains operating on its railways by 2022 under plans to phase out diesel engines, according to reports.

French multinational Alstom and Eversholt Rail have unveiled the design of the new trains for the UK market, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and will be called ‘Breeze’.

The trains will be a conversion of more than 100 existing Class 321 rolling stock, according to The Times, and will emit only water in the form of steam instead of harmful fumes. Alstom’s Widnes facility will manage the work, creating engineering jobs for the sector.

Alstom has already introduced its Coradia iLint hydrogen trains in Germany, where they now operate regular passenger services on a daily basis.

The trains can run at speeds of up to 90mph and could be deployed on commuter and suburban lines by 2021.

A report by The Times says the Department for Transport (DfT) is supporting the plan because it allows train companies to stop using polluting diesel stock without the need to invest in expensive overhead power lines needed to operate electric trains. The DfT plans to eliminate diesel trains from the network altogether by 2040.

The move will help reduce emissions on train lines that frequently use diesel rolling stock, where research has shown that pollution levels breach European legal limits.

Welcoming the development, rail minister Andrew Jones said: “Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further. We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes.”

Nick Crossfield, UK and Ireland MD of Alstom, commented: “The Breeze will be a clean new train for the UK with a stylish, modern look. The railways need to decarbonise and the government has rightly set out a goal to eliminate diesel rolling stock by 2040. Hydrogen trains offer an ideal solution for routes which are unlikely to benefit from electrification, and our innovative engineering solution means they can now fit within the UK loading gauge and can quickly be ready to roll on Britain’s railways. In Germany, Alstom’s hydrogen trains are already transporting passengers in the comfort and quiet that is characteristic of these trains. The Breeze offers British rail users the opportunity to share in the pleasure that is a journey on a hydrogen train.”;

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