The voice of the networks

#NetworksTenPointPlan - Powering public transport

10 December 2020

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Powering up public transport, decarbonising the sector and making it fit for a net zero future is a top priority for ENA members and their partners 

Highlights from networks 

The focus on decarbonising transport has been heavily on the smaller electric vehicles which will make up much of the UK's future vehicle fleet. However, with more customers turning to public transport there is a clear need to decarbonise heavier vehicles like trains and buses. A number of ENA's members are running trial projects or beginning this conversion process.

On such example is UK Power Networks' initiative at the Walworth Road bus depot where a new 1000kVA transformer provides additional power to the garage, delivering supplies for 34 electric buses. The innovative approach UK Power Networks adopted means that the bus garage can draw power from the grid outside of peak hours, reducing costs and the burden on the network. 

The view from Mike Muldoon, Head of Business Development, Alstom UK & Ireland  

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unforeseen and unprecedented changes to our way of life. But despite this uncertainty, there will always be a need to travel. As the backbone of our public transport network, it’s never been more important to ensure our trains are fit for the future. They must appeal to those wishing to travel in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way – particularly if we are to meet the Government’s ambitions to decarbonise transport by 2040.

We know that diesel vehicles are still some of the biggest polluters. With over 2,400 diesel regional rail vehicles still operating in the UK, there is an opportunity to make some immediate changes that will make a huge difference to our air quality and support decarbonisation of the transport network. For example, if we replaced just half of those diesel trains with hydrogen trains, it would have the same effect as taking close to 400,000 cars off the roads.

Hydrogen is the perfect ready replacement for regional diesel trains in areas that have not been electrified. It produces no carbon or other toxic harmful emissions. It is the ideal onboard energy storage for long range, self-powered trains. It is also more energy dense than alternative technologies, and capable of supporting trains for a full day before refuelling.

Alstom’s heritage in the UK goes back over a century and our ambition is to make the UK a centre of excellence for hydrogen conversion technology. Together with our partners, Eversholt Rail, we are taking much loved class 321 trains and upcycling them into brand new ‘Breeze’ hydrogen vehicles. These trains will be given new life as they are upgraded and fitted with new hydrogen fuel cells at Alstom’s factory in Widnes, creating 200 jobs in the North West straight away – with many more to come.

Our plan is the only shovel-ready hydrogen train programme, and we are ready to move fast to help the Government meet its objectives. If we get the green light from Ministers, passengers could be experiencing the benefits surprisingly soon. In fact, work has already started and so we could see trains replacing elderly diesel trains as early as 2024.
We’re proud that the ‘Breeze’ trains will not only be environmentally friendly, they will also offer a much quieter, smoother and more reliable ride for passengers than diesel trains.

The UK has a real opportunity to lead the world in the development of hydrogen train technology: creating thousands of green jobs and reducing harmful emissions at the same time. That’s why the Prime Minister is right to pledge not just to build back better but to build back greener.

About Energy Networks Association

We’re the industry body for the energy networks. Our members own and operate the wires and pipes which carry electricity and gas into your community, supporting our economy. The wires and pipes are the arteries of our economy, delivering energy to over 30 million homes and businesses across the UK and Ireland. To do this safely and reliably, the businesses which run the networks employ 45,000 people and have spent and invested over £60 billion in the last eight years.

Learn more about how the energy networks operate and who we represent.

Press contacts

ENA press office

+44 (0)7792 220 974
[email protected]