The northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen and rail operator ProRail are hoping to test run a train powered by hydrogen next year, the Volkskrant said on Thursday
The parties involved want to determine whether a hydrogen-powered train will prove to be a cheap and sustainable alternative for the diesel trains now operating from the provincial capitals of Leeuwarden and Groningen.
Most trains in the Netherlands run on electricity but there are no electric overhead lines on the rail network in Friesland and Groningen where the trains are powered by diesel. To switch to electric trains would cost hundreds of millions of euros, hence the potential move to hydrogen.
The hydrogen-powered train is a realistic alternative for tracks without overhead power supplies, said Wouter Wiersema of engineering consultancy Arcadis which is conducting a feasibility study of the new train.
But major changes are needed if the diesel engines are to be retired. Storage facilities for hydrogen – a very light, flammable fuel – will have to be created on trains and in stations. Strong safety measures are vital, said Wiersema.
The French train manufacturer Alstom is experimenting with a hydrogen-powered train in northern Germany. Once this train, called the Coradia iLint, has been given full safety clearance, it will also be able to travel on the Dutch rail network and the trials can take place, the Volkskrant said.