Michael Matheson MSP - Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity with Dr. Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy and a 314 Class electric train at the Scotrail Yoker Depot in Yoker, Glasgow with the train that will be converted to run on hydrogen.

Retired ScotRail train will be transformed to run on hydrogen

A retired ScotRail Class 314 electric train will be converted over the next 11 months to be hydrogen-powered, a greener alternative to diesel for non-electrified routes. The conversion will be done by an industry consortium led by hydrogen technology specialists Arcola Energy with the target of showcasing the train to a global audience attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

The conversion project is part of a Scottish Enterprise project, in partnership with Transport Scotland and the University of St Andrews’ Hydrogen Accelerator, to bring skills for the future of the rail industry into the Scottish supply chain and create opportunities for businesses. The train was transported by road from its depot in Glasgow to the historical Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway for the project. Scottish Enterprise interim CEO Linda Hanna: “This project is a key step towards our ambitions of creating an international rail cluster here in Scotland.”

Game changer

“This project has the potential to be a game changer for the future of Scotland’s rail rolling stock”, says Transport Secretary Michael Matheson. According to him, there is also a requirement to look at how to use retired stock in a sustainable way. “Our Rail Decarbonisation Action Plan sets out to make our passenger railways emissions free by 2035. If we can bring retired rolling stock back into use in a carbon neutral way, there are huge climate gains to be made.”

Dr Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy added: “Hydrogen traction power offers a safe, reliable and zero-carbon alternative for Scotland’s rail network. The hydrogen train project is an excellent opportunity for industry leaders in hydrogen, train engineering and safety to collaborate with local technology providers to develop a deployment ready solution.”

Professor John Irvine of the University of St Andrews emphasises the opportunities of the project: “The aim is not just to develop a new low carbon approach that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve air quality, it is also to develop skills and create new supply chain opportunities.”

Future of rail on historic site

Next to the benefits for Scottish business, the rail industry and the environment, the project will also provide a huge boost to the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway, a heritage railway, which relies on tourism and has suffered throughout the 2020 Covid lockdowns and restrictions. The Hydrogen Train Project will attract renewed interest in visitor attraction, operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS), as well as providing a direct cash injection via rental of the facilities there.

Steve Humphreys, SRPS Chairman: “Visitors will once again be able to take a nostalgic steam train journey and visit Scotland’s largest railway museum here with us. At the same time, we will be assisting in the development of the future of rail travel in Scotland”.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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