Germany will become the first country in Europe to put hydrogen passenger trains into commercial operation in March 2022. The European railways are putting the rails of the future on track, as 23 hydrogen trains have already been built by the French Alstom at its plant in Germany, have received all the necessary approvals.
Italy and France are following in the same footsteps, while Britain and Spain have already shown interest. But will hydrogen trains also get a ticket for Greece?
The discussion has been opened between Alstom, Trenitalia of the Italian group FSI – to which TRAINOSE belongs – and SNAM, with which there is a strategic cooperation, as well as with the competent Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, as reported by Alstom SVP Jean Luca Erba, during the webinar for the 18 months of trial operation of the first hydrogen train, the CoradiaiLint, which will “run” commercially in Lower Saxony from March 2022.
“In Greece, a large part of the existing lines are not electrified and are ideal for the application of this new technology. It will be a big step forward for the country, “he said characteristically.
As stated in an interview of TRAINOSE CEO, Mr. Filippos Tsalidis, the parent company is examining whether hybrid trains will come to Greece, as originally announced, or whether hydrogen trains will qualify under the large framework agreements that concluded by FSI. Although the decision has not apparently been made, the new technology trains are expected in 2024.
One of the lines for which hydrogen trains are considered ideal is from Thessaloniki to Alexandroupolis, where today the journey by train is still a lengthy adventure.
However, the key to any decision is the upgrade of the railway network, which today is characterized by slowness and lack of maintenance, while the level crossings remain a thorn in its side.
The solution will come through the huge project of maintenance of the railway network through a public-private partnership (PPP), which through large contracts will cover the maintenance and upgrade of the network throughout the country.
The contracting of the project is expected at the beginning of 2023. Part of its financing has been included in the national recovery plan “Greece 2.0” for raising funds amounting to 130 million euros from the Recovery Fund.
The train of the future as a backbone of European travel
“The railroad will become the backbone of travel in Europe in the coming years,” said Alstom CEO Henri Pupar-Lafarge during a recent webinar, attributing the key role of hydrogen to carbon offsets. travel.
About half of the railways in Europe are not electrified. As a result, in the rest the trains are diesel driven. The cost of converting a line to an electric one is quite high, reaching 1-3 million euros per kilometer, which makes electrification unprofitable when a line does not have high passenger traffic. For this reason, hydrogen trains are considered ideal on local routes.
Characteristic of the shift to alternative fuels is the fact that Germany, which has more than 38,300 km of railway network – the largest in Europe – of which about 40% have no electricity, financed the development of CoradiaiLint with 8 million euros. It is a zero-emission hydrogen-powered train, with a range of 1,000 km and a top speed of 140 km / h.
The premiere of the new CoradiaiLint will take place on local routes outside Hamburg, starting in March 2022 and ending in June of the same year. It is estimated that all 14 trains produced at the Salzgitter plant in the state of Lower Saxony, will be officially available to the passenger public.
In addition, 27 hydrogen trains will be commercially operated in the Frankfurt area by 2023, in France 12 dual-mode engines, using electricity and hydrogen, have punched a ticket for 2025, while Italy also recently ordered 6 trains with hydrogen cells with an option for another 8.
Also, from May 1, CoradiaiLint is already being tested in different weather and geomorphological conditions in the Baden-Württemberg region.
At the same time, Alstom’s rival Siemens, in cooperation with the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, is also developing hydrogen-powered trains. The original will be based on the Siemens Mireo Plus model, which will be equipped with fuel cells that will supply electricity to a large battery. The tests are estimated to start in 2024.