Hitachi unwraps ‘tri-mode’ train ahead of Italian debut

Hitachi Rail has unveiled its new ‘Blues Train’, a passenger-carrying hybrid that can switch between battery, electric or diesel power depending on where it is running.

The train is being displayed at this week’s InnoTrans event in Berlin before entering service in Italy with Trenitalia later in the year. According to Hitachi, the Blues will make up Europe’s first battery-hybrid passenger fleet as well as its first tri-mode fleet. Capable of travelling anywhere on Europe’s network, the Blues train is claimed to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption by 50 per cent.

“The Blues train, with its pioneering battery hybrid technology, is a hugely important way for railways across Europe to reduce their carbon emissions, while improving passengers’ journeys,” said Andrew Barr, Group CEO, Hitachi Rail.

“We’re thrilled to unveil this technology here in Berlin and to begin passenger service in Italy later this year. We know that decarbonising transport is a vital mission around Europe, so we’re delighted to provide our customer with effective solutions that lessen the impact on the planet.”

On electrified routes, the Blues will use pantographs to draw power from overhead lines. On smaller regional routes with non-electrified lines, the train will use a combination of battery and diesel power. When near to a station, the battery system can power the train its own, eliminating diesel emissions including harmful nitrogen oxides as well as reducing noise pollution. The battery is also able to recharge while the train is in operation, both in diesel and electric mode.

- Hitachi Rail

The Trenitalia fleet of Blues trains will have a top speed of 160 km/h. According to Hitachi, the battery power will enable faster acceleration than existing diesel trains, which should help to reduce journey times. The new four-carriage trains have been manufactured at Hitachi Rail’s factories in Pistoia and Naples and can accommodate up to 300 seated passengers.

Hitachi said the fleet has been designed to accommodate families and leisure travellers as well as regular commuters, with features including greater capacity for luggage and bikes, air conditioning, more USB and power sockets, and an area entirely dedicated to children. In total, 135 trains will be delivered by Hitachi to the Italian operator in a deal worth €1.2bn.

In the UK, Hitachi is working with both GWR and the operators of the Trans Pennine Express (TPE) on retrofitting existing rolling stock to convert then to tri-mode operation. Updates on both trials are expected later in the year.