World leading hydrogen retrofit innovation

HydroFLEX is the world’s first train retrofitted to operate under hydrogen power and the first hydrogen powered train on Britain’s railway. Uniquely, it is capable of drawing power from overhead wires and where these don’t exist, operating in self powered mode using hydrogen, fuel cells and batteries. HydroFLEX is the result of a ground-breaking collaboration between Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.

Following successful mainline testing of the HydroFLEX in September 2020, Porterbrook has partnered with the University of Birmingham and Network Rail to build a new version of the HydroFLEX, capable of replicating the duty cycles of the diesel trains it aims to replace.

The new HydroFLEX will offer delegates attending November’s COP26 in Glasgow the opportunity to travel on a hydrogen powered train that will also showcase the best of UK engineering. Following the conference, HydroFLEX will be used to demonstrate the potential of hydrogen traction to transport authorities across the UK nations and regions

HydroFLEX represents a £7m private sector investment by Porterbrook in a zero emission alternative to diesel powered trains. By retaining the capability of using overhead wires as a power source, HydroFLEX can extend the electrified railway to non-electrified routes but without the need for costly and disruptive infrastructure upgrades.

The design and build of the train is being undertaken by UK suppliers, protecting existing jobs and kick-starting the creation of an hydrogen rail supply chain.

Hydrogen powered trains will support the progressive roll out of electrification schemes, as well as delivering clean train travel on routes where overhead wires cannot be economically justified.

HydroFLEX is part of a suite of Porterbrook engineering initiatives designed to improve air-quality, reduce carbon and deliver a cost-effective and sustainable railway for both passengers and taxpayers.

“It is amazing to see Porterbrook’s HydroFLEX train showcased on an international stage. Ground-breaking green technology projects like HydroFLEX are central to our plan to decarbonise the rail network by 2050.”