HydroFLEX is the UK’s first hydrogen-ready passenger train

Porterbrook's innovative HydroFLEX train has undergone extensive mainline testing during 2023, reaching speeds of 90mph and travelling up Lickey Hill, the steepest mainline incline in the UK. The vehicle also became the first UK train to safely travel through a tunnel on hydrogen power. 

Built and tested at our Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre, the HydroFLEX project began in 2018 with a Class 319 train converted to run on hydrogen and battery power.

The original HydroFLEX train was developed in partnership with the University of Birmingham, with grant funding from Innovate UK – a branch of the UK government.

The train reached 50mph during mainline testing, an unofficial speed record making it the UK’s first hydrogen powered train. A fuel cell from the first HydroFLEX train features in the Innovation Platform exhibition at the National Railway Museum, showcasing technology that could make Britain’s railways greener and contribute to the rail industry becoming net zero ahead of the UK Government’s target of 2050.

Development on the successor to the original HydroFLEX train began in 2020, creating a passenger-ready hydrogen train that had four times the power of the first HydroFLEX, three times the battery capacity and a potential range of over 300 miles.

HydroFLEX has now reached speeds of over 80mph during mainline testing, and was showcased to the world at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in 2021. High profile visitors to the train included HRH The Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Up to 277kg of hydrogen fuel is safely contained aboard HydroFLEX in 36 high pressure tanks. This is fed into fuel cells, where a chemical process converts the hydrogen and oxygen from the air to generate clean electricity.

Porterbrook has invested over £12 million in HydroFLEX, with over 30 UK companies and 250 people contributing to the development of the train.

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
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP