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Alstom – powered by hydrogen

The major integrated manufacturers were all at InnoTrans, all showing something new and promising more to come.

Alstom revealed its new iLint train, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Two have been built, and should be in passenger service in northern Germany by the turn of the year.

Henri Poupart-Lafarge, president of Alstom, commented: “This fuel cell platform is about investment in optimisation rather than in changing infrastructure. With standards on emissions set to become ever more stringent in the coming years, rail networks will face a significant investment challenge. So we, as a rolling stock provider, thought about this and came up with the idea for a zero-emission train that costs less than electrification.

“The Coradia iLint is a nice story also because, as well as developing this train at different Alstom sites and involving different sectors within the group, partners in Germany were involved too.”

Both the fuel cells and the hydrogen storage tanks are mounted on the roof, next to the existing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) installation. Apart from those extra ‘lumps’, and the transformer packs under the floor, “the iLint looks the same as a regular train from the outside, feels the same on the inside,” to quote Poupart-Lafarge.

Rail Engineer writer Malcolm Dobell had an in-depth look at the new train. While it has a very simple set of objectives – to be emission free at point of use and to have the same performance and range as the diesel unit on which it is based – there were, as ever, some complex engineering, systems and logistics issues to resolve.

Malcolm took the opportunity of being in Germany to visit both the Alstom stand and the company’s largest production facility in Salzgitter for a report in next month’s issue. “Whilst many will think of Alstom as a rolling stock company,” Malcolm commented afterwards, “it was instructive to discover that less than 50 per cent of their current business is in rolling stock. It was truly fascinating to be able to talk to enthusiastic and knowledgeable engineers about turnkey systems, high speed, electrification hardware, infrastructure fit out, resilient sleepers, ETCS, Traffic Management, Condition Monitoring and recycling – all on the same stand.”

Although a very positive development, not everything is easy for rolling stock manufacturers. This unveiling in Berlin deflected attention away from other Alstom news in France. On 13 September, the company announced that it intends to close one of its manufacturing plants in France, its Belfort train-building plant. The reasons given were that there have been no locomotives on Alstom’s order books for over a decade, plus production of TGV (high-speed train) motors is uncertain beyond 2018.

If the closure does take place, the majority of the 480-strong workforce will be transferred to Alstom’s Reichshoffen site in Bas-Rhin, Germany, by 2018.

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