European passenger transport company Arriva has signed a €170m contract with rolling stock manufacturer Stadler to construct 18 zero-emission trains, which will run on partially electrified tracks in the northern region of the Netherlands.

The new ‘Flirtino’ train is capable of being transformed from a hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) hybrid diesel locomotive into a zero-emissions vehicle that utilises partial electrification to charge its batteries for operation on the non-electrified parts of the line.

It combines regenerative technology with a HVO engine, which can be equipped with an additional large battery to run on the non-electrified portions of track.

Arriva Group CEO Manfred Rudhart said: “As one of Europe’s largest transport operators, we are proud to be delivering into service world-first Flirtino trains for our Dutch customers.

“This is a major step towards creating a future where transport across Europe is cleaner, greener and more sustainable.

“Our investment in these new green technologies shows our commitment to ensuring that the environment remains top of the transport agenda across our operations in mainland Europe.”

“Our investment in these new green technologies shows our commitment to ensuring that the environment remains top of the transport agenda across our operations in mainland Europe, an area which is an important growth engine for Arriva.”

Partial electrification offers a cost-effective solution for enabling zero-emission operation on railway lines where full electrification cannot be achieved, especially on routes featuring several bridges and viaducts.

Arriva’s intended use of Flirtino trains formed part of the company’s successful bid for the Netherlands’ Northern Lines contract in July.

The first HVO vehicles are scheduled to be introduced onto the network in 2020.

Arriva expects the partial electrification works to be finalised by 2025, which will be followed by the upgrade of the vehicles into zero-emission trains.

In addition to the contracted modernisation of the 18 new units, Arriva’s existing 51 locomotives are also set to undergo a comprehensive renovation programme in order to create a complete fleet of 69 hybrid trains.