Railways Green Initiative: Hydrogen Powered Trains To Run On Heritage Routes

Railways Green Initiative: Hydrogen Powered Trains To Run On Heritage Routes

by Arun Kumar Das - Wednesday, January 4, 2023 11:54 AM IST
Railways Green Initiative: Hydrogen Powered Trains To Run On Heritage RoutesA hydrogen fuel powered train. (Representative Image)

Going full throttle on the green trains plan, the Railway Ministry is going to start operating Hydrogen trains along eight heritage routes on a mission mode.

As part of the green initiative, the Railways Ministry is earmarking Rs 2,800 crore in the proposed rolling stock plan, in the upcoming budget, to run hydrogen trains on eight identified routes.

Besides, Rs 600 crore has been earmarked for building infrastructure for supply of hydrogen for train operation.

At present eight heritage trains, which are being operated by the Railways in different parts of the country, are running on diesel and steam engines. Plans are being finalised for converting all heritage trains into eco-friendly Green Hydrogen powered trains. 

Heritage routes such as the Kalka Shimla Railway and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway have narrow gauge (less than 1,435 mm) railway tracks. Similarly the Nilgiri Mountain Railways and Marwar-Devgarh Madriya routes have meter gauge (1,000 mm) tracks.

'The Railways plan is to convert these trains into Green Hydrogen powered trains. This is part of the Railways green initiative,' Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, told reporters. 

As per the proposal, these trains will retain the heritage look. The front portion would look like a steam engine which would emanate steam from the electric system. However, instead of coal, the train will run on Green Hydrogen fuel, he said. 

"These Hydrogen trains will be tailor made for each route and will be introduced over the next two years,” he added.

Since most heritage trains are being operated in hill stations, Hydrogen powered trains will be environment friendly, he said, adding that, "the use of Hydrogen and, in particular, Green Hydrogen as a rail fuel, offers a range of benefits, including supporting zero carbon goals as a clean energy source." 

At present the railway is operating 8 heritage trains: Matheran Hill Railway, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka Shimla Railway,Kangra Valley, Bilmora Waghai, Mhow Patalpani, Nilgiri Mountain Railways and Marwar-Devgarh. 

The Hydrogen heritage trains will be made in Golden Rock Railway Workshop, Tiruchirappalli, in Tamil Nadu. The railways is planning to operate the first hydrogen fuelled  train on the heritage route within two years, the Minister said. 

The heritage train destinations are highly sought after by tourists due to their historical relevance and charm. But these narrow and meter gauge tracks are not compliant with the modern trains that are designed for India’s predominantly broad gauge (1,676 mm) routes.

Indian Railways is also developing a hydrogen-powered train in its workshop in Haryana and it will be ready in 2023. These trains will be known as 'Vande Metro' Hydrogen Train, the Minister said recently. 

Until now only Germany, China and France have developed hydrogen-powered trains.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.

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