SNCF signs with Alstom for hydrogen trains

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France has become the latest nation to embrace hydrogen propulsion for rail with the acquisition of electric-hydrogen trains from Alstom.

Dual mode electric-hydrogen Coradia Polyvalent train (Image: Alstom)

In a contract valued at around 190m, French rail operator SNCF has ordered 12 Coradia Polyvalent trainsets with options for two more. The order, which secures over 2,000 jobs in France for Alstom and its suppliers, is in line with SNCF’s phase out of regional diesel express trains by 2035.

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“France has everything it needs to become a hydrogen champion: the French government is fully committed to turning this ambition into reality,” said Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister Delegate for Transport, French Ministry of the Ecological Transition. “We will be covering 47m of development costs for France’s first regional hydrogen-powered train. I am delighted that this support has enabled the four partner regions to confirm their order for the first 14 trains.”

According to Alstom, the dual mode electric-hydrogen Coradia Polyvalent train meets the requirements of the French rail network and can operate for up to 600km on sections of non-electrified railway. The four-car, 72m-long train has a total capacity of 218 passengers and the same performance and level of comfort as the dual mode electric-diesel version.

In a statement, Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, President of Alstom France said: “Alstom is particularly proud to be contributing, alongside SNCF Voyageurs and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie regions, to a cleaner and more sustainable mobility solution.

“Alstom is the first rail company in the world to launch a hydrogen train onto the market and to master this technology through its iLint train, developed for the German market. This new order for the French market is fully in line with Alstom Group’s ambition to become number one in the green and smart mobility market.”

In 2018 two Alstom Coradia iLint trains became the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains to enter commercial service in the Lower Saxony region of Germany. This was followed in 2020 with tests by Austrian by rail operator ÖBB of iLint’s on the Austrian rail network and an order from Italy’s FNN for six hydrogen fuel cell trains from Alstom.