Ontario Moves Toward Hydrogen-Powered Trains


The Province of Ontario is taking the next steps in testing hydrogen-powered train technology, according to an announcement from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Kathryn McGarry, minister of transportation, was recently in Toronto to release the province’s Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study, which found that it would be feasible to build and operate an electrified rail service on GO Transit and the UP Express by using hydrogen-powered trains at a cost comparable to conventional electrification using overhead wires.

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.

According to the ministry of transportation, electrifying the GO rail network is part of a project to transform the network 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.

Unlike conventional electric trains, which draw power from the electrical grid while operating, hydrogen can be produced off-peak using renewable energy and can be stored for future use at a cost comparable to conventional electric rail systems, the ministry says.

“The potential benefit of hydrogen fuel cells compared to overhead wires makes exploring hydrogen rail technology worthwhile. Our government is taking the next step in assessing how this important technology could work for our own transit system,” McGarry says.

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Stan Thompson
6 years ago

A very unpleasant and carefully avoided issue is the number of copper thieves and rail technicians killed—or horribly burned—each year by the miles of 25,000-volt overhead railway catenary wire which hydrail technololgy eliminates.

Stan Thompson
6 years ago

Please make that a “global” trend instead.

Stan Thompson
6 years ago

Local provincial or national hydrail project are covered but they are instances of a gobal trend including Japan, China, Germany and the UK.

The overarching “why” story goes unremarked.

Stan Thompson
6 years ago

Ontario’s, Japan’s, Germany’s, China’s and the UK’s pivot to hydrail are all addresses as stand-alone local innovations. But the real story is the global turning away from exorbitant 19th century electrification and 20th century carbon (diesel).