Ontario taking next steps in testing H2 train technology; feasibility study released; concepts from Siemens, Alstom
Ontario is taking the next steps in exploring the potential of Hydrail (hydrogen-powered rail technology) as an alternative to conventional electric trains.
Kathryn McGarry, Minister of Transportation, released the province’s detailed Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study, which found that it would be feasible to build and operate electrified rail service on GO Transit and the UP Express using hydrogen-powered trains at a cost comparable to conventional electrification using overhead wires.
|Hydrail system structure. Click to enlarge.
Ontario is engaging with train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens to produce concept designs that incorporate hydrogen fuel cells into bi-level trains similar to those currently used by GO Transit. In addition, the province is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for designs for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive, which could lead to a prototype rail vehicle that would be tested on the GO rail network.
Electrifying the GO rail network is part of the largest rail project in Canada as Ontario is investing $21.3 billion to transform GO from a commuter transit system to a regional rapid transit system. Weekly trips across the entire GO rail network will grow from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2025, with more two-way, all-day and 15-minute service for commuters and families across the region.
Feasibility study. Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario under the Metrolinx Act, 2006, was created to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Metrolinx has been investigating the feasibility of using a hydrail system for the GO rail network.
The objective of the feasibility study was to determine whether it is technologically feasible and economically beneficial to use hydrogen fuel cells as a power source for electrifying the GO rail service. The study investigated several topics including the scale of the Hydrail System, costs, safety, and implications of implementing this system as well as the risks and opportunities involved.
The feasibility study is based on the train service pattern and rail vehicle fleet mix (locomotives and electric multiple units [EMUs]) that Metrolinx intends to operate on the electrified GO network from 2025.
A software simulation model used data such as the planned types of trains and service patterns. The model generated results that included the amount of hydrogen that the system would need every day and the costs to set up and operate the system. Based on these results and other research undertaken, the study determined several key findings and recommendations. These include:
It should be technically feasible to build and operate the GO Transit network using hydrogen fuel cell powered rail vehicles.
The overall lifetime costs of building and operating the Hydrail System are equivalent to that of a conventional overhead electrification system.
The implementation of the Hydrail System of this scale and complexity has never been undertaken, and presents a different set of risks, as compared to conventional electrification.
There are a number of potential beneficial opportunities that would exist if the Hydrail System is implemented instead of electrifying the GO Transit network through the conventional overhead catenary system. These opportunities include:
Ability to commence some electrified rail commuter services earlier than the 2025 target date.
Being able to operate electrified rail services over the whole GO Transit network.
Sharing some of the costs with other users of hydrogen in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Being a catalyst for the expansion of businesses with a hydrogen technology focus and the creation of associated high skilled jobs.
The feasibility study report recommends more exploratory work is undertaken to reduce risks and gain a better understanding of the beneficial opportunities. The recommendations are:
Continue to move forward with the existing HFC electric multiple unit train and HFC locomotive projects.
Begin developing designs for the refueling and hydrogen production systems.
Work with regulators to clarify the safety rules that will apply to the Hydrail System.
Develop a framework for bid proposals that can be used as part of the DBFOM procurement process.
Work with the Ontario government to develop a cross-government business case for hydrogen (including the Hydrail System).