Three British companies unite to develop new hydrogen fuelling infrastructure that could soon allow for the roll out of zero emission trains on the UK rail network
More than 200 years after the first trains were built in the UK, a partnership between three British companies looks set to continue the country's history of rail industry innovation.
Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, tpgroup, and Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions signed an agreement late last week, which will see them explore ways to better utilise hydrogen refueling technology across the transport sector - starting with the rail industry.
The initial focus for the project will be on the development of portable, modular refueling solutions for the rail sector, which is working on a number of pilot projects to run new hydrogen and fuel cell hybrid trains on the network.
The project will build on the refueling system currently being used by HydroFLEX - the UK's first hydrogen train, which has been developed by Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.
Charles Calvert, chief engineer of Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, described the partnership as a "hugely exciting opportunity" to accelerate the development of hydrogen powered train travel. "We have built a fantastic working partnership with Fuel Cell Systems and TP Group - two fellow British companies focused on innovation and sustainability," he said. "We are looking forward to bringing to market the solutions that will enable hydrogen to play a major role in powering the future transport sector."
Tom Chicken, chief technical officer of Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, added that the firm was "well placed" to contribute to the project having already developed hydrogen refueling expertise for the transport industry. "Hydrogen is a clean technology, with a key role to play in decarbonising the rail industry," he said.
And as with the rail industry of previous generations, there are hopes the innovations developed by the three companies in the UK can then be transported internationally.
"Our joint goal is… to explore global opportunities for hydrogen-based transport solutions, and to be an influential part of this rapidly growing market sector," said Phil Cartmell, chief executive of TP Group.
The new partnership comes as calls continue to grow for the government to approve plans to trial hydrogen trains on routes in the UK, after a number of similar projects commenced across Europe this summer.
Speaking to BusinessGreen earlier this month, Nick Crossfield, managing director of Alstom UK and Ireland, the engineering giant working on ambitious hydrogen train plans, expressed frustration the government was yet to move forward with plans to deploy a number of fuel cell trains. "Compared to regions like Germany and Italy, two of the leading lights in Europe, the processes here seem slower, more drawn out, the decision making seems more complicated," he said.
However, there is growing speculation the government could soon announce fresh backing for the UK's nascent hydrogen sector with recent reports suggesting Number 10 is convinced the fuel can play a major role in helping to meet the country's net zero emissions target.
Heir to the throne calls for 'swift and immediate' action to address escalating climate impacts in keynote speech this afternoon
Retail giant touts plan to become 'regenerative company' as it unveils carbon and nature commitments on the opening day of NYC Climate Week
Speculation mounting government will pull forward date following assurances a rapid shift to plug in vehicles would not overwhelm the UK electricity grid
VIDEO: Stephen Fitzpatrick, Adrian Letts, and Sara Wood reflect on the first year of Plan Zero, OVO's 10 year mission to drive progress to zero carbon living