RSSB releases key findings from hydrogen fuel cells in rail research project

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The UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has released the first key findings from a research project to evaluate the “next phase” of hydrogen fuel cells in rail.

As part of the project, RSSB is investigating the essential technical questions for the safe and efficient roll-out of hydrogen fuel cells in rail, starting with the suitability of existing standards and the boundaries of responsibility between different organizations.

The research project undertook a comprehensive review of all existing standards and standards groups, whether they were within rail or outside it. A total of 16 relevant working groups were identified and their work evaluated from a hydrogen perspective.

A detailed gap analysis was carried out, and a total of 97 standards areas for development identified. These range from fuel cell placement to depot maintenance and operation staff competence to excessive electromagnetic emissions from the system.

“There really is a great deal of sophisticated expertise that must be applied to ensure that standards apply to hydrogen,” RSSB noted.

The second topic of the project examines the different boundaries of responsibility when including hydrogen fuel cells within the operational railway. RSSB’s report considers the expected division of responsibilities between train operators and other organizations as well as the legal context. It discusses how these issues have been handled in other high-risk industries such as nuclear and construction. It concludes with reference to two thought-provoking case studies highlighting the issue of different boundaries of responsibility.

According to RSSB, its report marks a very significant first step in enabling the roll-out of hydrogen to be safe, efficient, and commercially viable, wherever it happens. It helps keep railway staff, passengers, and freight safe, as well as the network. It will even help manufacturers design products that are the best for rail.

“Whether you are a hydrogen afficionado or reluctantly hydrogen-curious this report is important and useful reading,” noted RSSB. “We’re keen to take the lead on evaluating hydrogen roll-out before it starts so that avoidable problems are prevented. We look forward to the next stage of this research project with confidence whatever the outcome.”

To find out more about RSSB’s research project and view the report, click here.