Groningen, Friesland to test Netherlands' first hydrogen train next year

An Alstom Coradia iLint in Berlin, Sept 2016
An Alstom Coradia iLint in Berlin, Sept 2016Photo: ubahnverleih / Wikimedia Commons

The provinces of Friesland and Groningen, with rail manager ProRail, plan to start testing a train running on hydrogen next year. The provinces hope that hydrogen will prove to be a cheap and sustainable alternative to the diesel trains currently running between Leeuwarden and Groningen, the Volkskrant reports.

While most Dutch trains run on electricity, some trains in Groningen and Friesland have to run on diesel. There is no electrical overhead line on the tracks between Groningen and Leeuwarden and on the small lines to Roodeschool, Stavoren, Delfzijl and Nieuweschans. Constructing a copper line would cost hundreds of millions of euros - an investment with a very slow return as there is less train traffic in this area, according to the newspaper. 

The two provinces now hope that hydrogen can offer a solution to the extra air and noise pollution caused by the diesel trains. Hydrogen trains do not emit any harmful substances, only water vapor, and are also much quieter than diesel engines. 

The test will involve the Coradia iLint hydrogen train from French train builder Alstom. When exactly the test will start is not yet clear. "First the Alstom train must meet the safety requirements of the Dutch rail", a ProRail spokesperson said to the Volkskrant. 

Friesland and Groningen are dependent on Arriva's cooperation to go through with this test. The carrier has the concession for the train tracks in the northern provinces and will have to free up space for the test. At this stage, Arriva is willing to participate. "With the parties involved we are currently exploring the possibilities", a spokesperson said to the newspaper, adding that Arriva is "very happy with the provinces' ambitions. 

Should the two northern provinces decide to switch to hydrogen trains, hydrogen stations must first be built. This will take some time to figure out, as hydrogen is a very flammable fuel and therefore must be subject to strict safety requirements, according to the newspaper.