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Business News/ Industry / Railways to invite global firms to manufacture hydrogen trains

Railways to invite global firms to manufacture hydrogen trains

A call for expressions of interest will be made next year once a prototype of the emissions-free train is developed, likely by March

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said India should be able to indigenously develop a prototype of a hydrogen-po.wered train by March (ANI)Premium
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said India should be able to indigenously develop a prototype of a hydrogen-po.wered train by March (ANI)

India proposes to invite expression of interest from global players to manufacture hydrogen-powered trains in the country based on technology being developed indigenously.

Indian Railways is developing a prototype of a train that will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells–making for a more environment-friendly locomotive than traditional diesel-powered ones.

“Our focus, now that we are almost fully electrified, is on getting more and more renewable energy and increasing the intake of green energy," Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in an interview.

Few countries possess the knowhow to manufacture hydrogen-powered trains, and India is progressing “very well" in its efforts to develop the technology, he said, adding, “By the end of current fiscal (year), we should be able to develop one prototype."

Based on this technology, the trains would be manufactured in partnership with domestic and international railway system makers. The invitation for expression of interest is expected to be issued next year once the prototype is ready.

Commercial operations of hydrogen-powered trains would take India into an exclusive club of railway systems operating emission-free locomotives. Currently, only Germany commercially operates hydrogen-powered trains, while the US, the UK, France, and Japan are in the testing phase. 

India’s plan to develop the technology involves retrofitment of hydrogen fuel cells on diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) rakes. This prototype is expected to run on the Jind-Sonipat section in Haryana initially.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech in February announced the ‘Hydrogen for Heritage’ scheme, a plan to operate hydrogen-powered trains on select heritage and hilly routes that are environmentally sensitive.

Indian Railways has proposed to run 35 hydrogen trains at an estimated cost of Rs80 crore per train, with ground infrastructure costing Rs70 crore per route.

Thirty-five train-set rakes (with six coaches each) have been sanctioned for the ongoing financial year for eight sections–Matheran Hill Railway, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kangra Valley, Bilmora Waghai, Patalpani Kalakund, Nilgiri Mountain Railways, and Marwar-Goram Ghat. 

The abstract cost of manufacturing one rake of six coaches with hydrogen propulsion is estimated to be Rs80 crore, and for ground infrastructure at Rs600 crore. In a statement in February, the ministry of railways said that while the initial running cost of hydrogen-powered trains would be higher, it would subsequently reduce with an increase in the number of such trains.

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Published: 30 Nov 2023, 03:00 PM IST
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