Home General Interest DfT funding for HydroFLEX hydrogen-powered train design

DfT funding for HydroFLEX hydrogen-powered train design

A grant from the Department for Transport will bring the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train (HydroFLEX closer to commercial operation.

The grant is part of InnovateUK’s First of a Kind (FOAK) Programme. Worth £400,000, it will enable the HydroFLEX development team at the University of Birmingham and industry partners Porterbrook to develop the train’s detailed final production design and testing.

HydroFLEX, which is also the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train as well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, will be undergoing mainline testing on the UK railway in the next few weeks.

Winning the FOAK 2020 programme marks an important step for the University and Porterbrook as it brings hydrogen trains one step closer to operation on the UK railway.

Alex Burrows, director of University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, commented: “I am really pleased that our HydroFLEX project has secured further Innovate UK funding to take its development closer to full commercialisation.

“To achieve decarbonisation of the railway we need to develop hydrogen technology, alongside electrification and batteries, as one of the means to get diesel trains off the network.

“The University of Birmingham has world class R&D capability in rail decarbonisation and I am hugely proud of our team as we continue this fantastic innovation partnership with industry to accelerate the development of clean technologies for the railway.”

Removing diesel from the rail network is essential for the industry to demonstrate its low carbon credentials to the public and government at a time of increasing environmental awareness and action. Hydrogen, along with electrification and battery technology, is one of the three means for delivering a decarbonised railway.

Minister of State for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris said: “the success of this trial in reducing harmful emissions underlines the importance of the First of a Kind competition, which funds pioneering projects to support better, more environmentally friendly rail journeys.

“Reducing the railway’s environmental impact and supporting decarbonisation is a priority for this Government. Harnessing innovation like this will be crucial in making our railways greener and cleaner in the future.”

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said “I am delighted that Innovate UK is supporting the University of Birmingham as it takes HydroFLEX to the next stage.

“We have proven this technology works, now is the opportunity for government to truly energise the Green Recovery by creating a real market for a fleet of hydrogen powered passenger trains.”

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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