SNCF to launch hydrogen-powered trains

According to a report in the International Rail Journal, French National Railways (SNCF) says it has committed to bringing the first hydrogen fuel-cell train in France into operation by 2022.

At a meeting of train operators, Frank Lacroix (CEO of regional operator TER) and Pierre Izard (SNCF deputy CEO
— rail systems and technologies) announced the launch of a feasibility study and said they were committed to working with the regions to define the specifications of the future use of hydrogen fuel-cell rolling stock on the regional network.

Currently, 50% of the TER fleet is diesel-powered, while 20% is bi-mode (diesel and electric), but SNCF president Guillaume Pepy recently said that the company had set a goal of removing diesel operation completely by 2035.

Last month, Alstom unveiled a concept for a hydrogen fuel-cell variant of its Coradia Polyvalent multiple unit, which it is developing as an alternative to diesel trains for the French regions.

The project builds on Alstom’s experience in Germany with the prototype iLint hydrogen train (pictured), which entered service in Lower Saxony in September.

While rail accounts for less than 1% of greenhouse-gas emissions in France, SNCF says there is still room for improvement.

A steering committee has been created to over-see the project, which will identify details such as funding sources and a suitable pilot line for the first hydrogen train.

In September, SNCF announced a partnership with Alstom and the French regions of Grand-Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie to test a battery-electric regional train from 2020.