Alstom Aventra hydrogen fuel cell multiple unit impression

UK: Alstom and leasing company Eversholt Rail have agreed to share technical and commercial information which would enable the rolling stock manufacturer to design, build and support a fleet of 10 three-car hydrogen fuel cell multiple-units for the UK market, based on the latest evolution of its Aventra platform.

Alstom envisages that contracts could be signed in early 2022, subject to a customer being lined up. Production would be undertaken in the UK, although the location has not been confirmed.

A memorandum of understanding for co-operation was announced during the COP26 climate change conference on November 10, although the companies said this did not establish a partnership or joint venture, and they were not obliged to enter into any further agreements.

‘Rail is already the lowest emission transport mode, but we can do even more’, explained Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s Managing Director, UK & Ireland. ‘I am delighted that we have concluded this agreement with our friends at Eversholt Rail which will lead to Britain’s first ever fleet of new hydrogen trains.’

Eversholt Rail CEO Mary Kenny added that ‘it is important that we start sooner rather than later to decarbonise UK Rail if we are to meet the 2050 net-zero target. Hydrogen propulsion will play an important role, and this project with Alstom will demonstrate how the private sector can work together to make a difference.’

Hydrogen train market

Alstom and Eversholt previously worked together on the Breeze project announced in early 2019. This proposed fitting fuel cells to Class 321 electric multiple-units dating from 1998-90, which would enable the surplus 25 kV 50 Hz trainsets to replace diesel multiple-units on non-electrified regional routes.

In separate but similar projects leasing company Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham have produced a demonstrator unit from a surplus Class 319 EMU, branded HydroFLEX, while Angel Trains, the University of St Andrews and Arcola Energy are undertaking the Zero Emission Train project based on a Class 314 EMU.

Alstom and Eversholt Rail's Breeze proposal

Alstom and Eversholt Rail’s Breeze proposal

Alstom had hoped to receive orders for Breeze units by the end of 2019, but so far none have been placed. From its discussions with potential customers, the company now believes that there is more interest in new-build hydrogen trains.

Alstom said the knowledge gained from the Breeze project, along with stakeholder feedback on future fleet strategies, had been invaluable in shaping product planning.

Its hydrogen experience also includes the iLint developed for the continental European market based on its Coradia Lint diesel multiple-unit family.

Alstom iLint

Alstom iLint

Two pre-series iLints entered regular service on the Elbe-Weser network in September 2018, with trials formally completed in May 2020. In November 2017 Niedersachsen transport authority LNVG ordered a fleet of 14 iLint units for use between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude from 2022, and a further 27 were ordered by Rhein-Main transport authority RMV in May 2019 for operation in the Frankfurt area from December 2022.

In France SNCF Voyageurs placed orders this year for Alstom to supply 12 Coradia Polyvalent hydrogen-electric multiple-units for use in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie, with options for a further two trainsets.