The Department of Transport in the UK has run its first-ever hydrogen-powered train, going some way towards meeting its net-zero targets. The trials of the train were run on Wednesday 30 September 2020 in the United Kingdom. The trials have been named after HydroFLEX and have been supported with a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport (DfT), follow almost 2 years’ development work and more than £1 million of investment by both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.

Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases, instead of using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. The ground-breaking technology behind the trains will also be available in the country by 2023 to retrofit current in-service trains to hydrogen, helping decarbonise the rail network and make rail journeys greener and more efficient.

The Transport Secretary also announced the ambition for Tees Valley to become a trailblazing Hydrogen Transport Hub. Bringing together representatives from academia, industry and government to drive forward the UK’s plans to embrace the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel could create hundreds of jobs while seeing the region become a global leader in the green hydrogen sector.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As we continue on our road to a green recovery, we know that to really harness the power of transport to improve our country – and to set a global gold standard – we must truly embed change.”

To kick-start this exciting development in Tees Valley, the Department for Transport have commissioned a masterplan to understand the feasibility of the hub and how it can accelerate the UK’s ambitions in hydrogen. The masterplan, expected to be published in January, will pave the way for exploring how green hydrogen could power buses, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), rail, maritime and aviation transport across the UK.

The aim would then be for the region to become a global leader in industrial research on the subject of hydrogen as a fuel, as well as research and development (R&D) hub for hydrogen transport more generally, attracting hundreds of jobs and boosting the local economy in the process.

The next stages of HydroFLEX are already well underway, with the University of Birmingham developing a hydrogen and battery-powered module that can be fitted underneath the train, which will allow more space for passengers in the train’s carriage.

The Department for Transport is developing even more ways to slash emissions across transport, as work to create the transport decarbonisation plan continues. The plan will develop a first-of-a-kind approach to decarbonise every mode of transport and is due to be published before the end of this year.