Thursday, the provincial government announced they are taking the next steps in exploring hydrogen-powered trains, or “hydrail” as a more sustainable alternative to electric trains.
A study was released saying it was feasible to build and operated electrified rail service on both GO Transit and the UP Express with hydrogen-powered trains. This change will be a comparable cost to conventional electrification, which uses overhead wiring.
“The potential benefit of hydrogen fuel cells compared to overhead wires makes exploring hydrogen rail technology worthwhile,” said Ontario Minister of Transportation, Kathryn McGarry. “Our government is taking the next step in assessing how this important technology could work for our own transit system.”
Concept designs are being produced by manufacturers Alstom and Siemens.
What is a hydrogen-powered train? Energy is created when hydrogen, which is stored at the top of the train, is combined with oxygen. That energy is then converted using fuel cells, which charges batteries stored below the train. This creates electricity to run the train. Additionally, extra unused energy is stored in lithium batteries and allows the train to be more efficient because it doesn’t have any waste energy.
The hydrail is considered carbon neutral. because it takes hydrogen already in the environment and re-uses it. Though electrification doesn’t have any carbon output, hydrogen fuel cells are able to provide more flexibility in hard-to-reach places because they don’t require a lot of infrastructure to build, a common issue on train routes.
The first hydrogen-powered passenger train was revealed in December 2017 in Germany.
GO Transit will also be testing wireless Internet on two of their GO trains and four GO busses. While most GO stations and terminals have free Wi-Fi, none of the trains do. That is something Metrolinx, the transit agency responsible for GO Transit, wants to change.
“We are committed to making the entire GO experience even better for people. These enhancements are an example of how we are modernizing GO Transit and enhancing services for people across Ontario,” McGarry said in a statement.
Information will be gathered from commuters about the wireless internet and quality will be examined before it is installed in all trains.
Both of these revitalizations are part of a $21.3 billion investment in GO Transit made by the Ontario government.
-with files from Kaeleigh Phillips