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India to Introduce Hydrogen-Trains: A Leap Towards Green Railways

6 Dec 2023

In a groundbreaking move, India is set to invite global expressions of interest for the manufacturing of hydrogen-powered trains, marking a significant stride towards environmentally sustainable railway systems. The ambitious initiative by Indian Railways aims to harness indigenous technology to develop prototypes of trains powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Indigenous Technology Development

Indian Railways, nearly fully electrified, is now focused on incorporating renewable energy and increasing the adoption of green energy. The Railways Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, revealed that the country is progressing well in developing the technology for hydrogen-powered trains, with plans to unveil a prototype by the end of the current fiscal year. This pioneering effort positions India among a select few countries working on the manufacturing of hydrogen trains.

Global Partnership for Manufacturing

Following the successful development of the prototype, India plans to collaborate with both domestic and international railway system manufacturers for the production of hydrogen-powered trains. An invitation for expressions of interest is anticipated to be issued next year, marking a crucial step in the realization of emission-free locomotives.

Exclusive Club of Hydrogen Rail Operators

If successful, India's commercial deployment of hydrogen-powered trains would place it in an exclusive group of countries with railway systems operating emission-free locomotives. Presently, Germany is the sole country with operational hydrogen trains, while the US, the UK, France, and Japan are in the testing phase of similar projects.

Retrofitting Hydrogen Fuel Cells

India's strategy involves retrofitting hydrogen fuel cells onto diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) rakes. The initial prototype is expected to run on the Jind-Sonipat section in Haryana. The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, had previously announced the 'Hydrogen for Heritage' scheme, envisioning hydrogen-powered trains on environmentally sensitive heritage and hilly routes.

Hydrogen Train Development Plan

The 'Hydrogen for Heritage' scheme outlines the proposal to run 35 hydrogen trains at an estimated cost of Rs80 crore per train. The plan includes ground infrastructure costs of Rs70 crore per route. Thirty-five train-set rakes, each with six coaches, have been sanctioned for the current financial year for various sections across India, including iconic routes like the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Nilgiri Mountain Railways.

Cost Considerations and Future Prospects

While the initial running cost of hydrogen-powered trains may be higher, the ministry of railways asserts that costs will decrease as the number of such trains increases. The estimated cost for manufacturing one rake of six coaches with hydrogen propulsion is Rs80 crore, with an additional Rs600 crore allocated for ground infrastructure.

India's foray into hydrogen-powered trains signifies a bold step toward greener and more sustainable railway transportation, aligning with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

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