French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom has announced plans to introduce hydrogen-powered trains to the UK to support the government’s plan to withdraw diesel locomotives by 2040.

The company is currently working on a project with Eversholt Rail to equip a fleet of Class 321 electric trains with hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to enable hydrogen-powered operations.

Hydrogen will be produced through sustainable electricity and electrolysis, where the fuel cells will produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, creating water as a waste product.

“Not only are hydrogen trains zero carbon, they are near-silent and emit no particulates.”

Subsequently, the electrical energy is stored in batteries and the train will run on electrical traction drive.

Under this process, only steam and condensed water are given off by the systems.

Alstom UK & Ireland managing director Nick Crossfield said: “Not only are hydrogen trains zero carbon, they are near-silent and emit no particulates, which means they offer substantial air quality and noise pollution benefits too.

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“On cost, hydrogen trains can help to avoid the necessity for line electrification, which represents a significant investment for customers.

The company has already designed a hydrogen train, the Coradia iLint, which is currently being tested in Germany.

Crossfield added: “Less than 50% of the UK network is electrified, and much that isn’t electrified is unlikely ever to be so.

“Starting with this conversion, we think hydrogen could offer the right zero-carbon solution for many parts of the network.”

Around one-third of all trains in UK are diesel units. They are required to be overhauled or replaced to fulfil the government plan to remove all diesel rail vehicles by 2040.