UK start-up powering headline COP26 rail decarbonization projects

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UK start-up, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, has announced latest progress on several headline projects that are driving forward the development of hydrogen and battery technologies to achieve rail decarbonization.

Vanguard has been working closely with the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook to support the delivery of HydroFLEX, the UK’s first mainline-approved hydrogen train. HydroFLEX is currently taking a headline role at COP26 in Glasgow, demonstrating the application of this cutting-edge technology to support decarbonization of railway systems in the UK and across the globe. The team at Vanguard have been supporting the HydroFLEX project team over the past 12 months with specialist design and engineering work. 

Additionally, Vanguard is working in partnership with the Severn Valley Railway and the University of Birmingham to convert a Class 08 shunter locomotive from diesel to a clean, modern hybrid hydrogen/battery system. This project has developed with significant input from students and apprentices getting involved and learning about these new technologies and their role in delivering rail decarbonization.

Helen Smith, managing director of Severn Valley Railways, said, “Shunter locomotives are the workhorses of our operation as a heritage railway, carrying out essential stock movements on a regular basis. The Harrier HydroShunter will be emissions-free at the point of use, and we hope to inspire other heritage rail organizations to follow our lead. The national rail network relies on its shunting stock just like we do; just imagine how much better the UK’s carbon footprint would be if they were all powered by hydrogen.”

Vanguard continues its work with rolling stock projects along with delivering solutions for rapid, safe, high-volume hydrogen refueling specifically for railway applications. As a result, Porterbrook has also contracted Vanguard to supply hydrogen refueling services to the HydroFLEX project.

Rob Gibson, Vanguard chief operating officer, said, “We are delighted to have supported the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook and seeing HydroFLEX in operation at COP26 is a fantastic achievement. Vanguard is investing significantly in our research and development activities to take this technology forward toward commercial applications globally.”

Alexander Burrows, director at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, added, “In just three years, the University and Porterbrook have designed, developed and now delivered the UK’s first hydrogen train into operation.  Seeing it running at COP26 in Glasgow is a wonderful achievement and as a university we are thrilled to see our research now directly influencing policy-making and delivering a real-world impact.”

Find out more about the University of Birmingham’s involvement in the HydroFLEX project here.