German Capital Region to Get Hydrogen Trains

The states of Berlin and Brandenburg have agreed a research contract with Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB) to introduce hydrogen-powered trains on the Heidekrautbahn.

This will be the first time hydrogen-powered trains will be used in Germany’s capital region.

The Federal Ministry of Transport is funding the project, with 25 million euros (28.59m USD) going to three project developers: ENERTRAG, Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB) and Kreiswerke Barnim. The funds will be co-ordinated by NOW and Projektträger Jülich.

The three partners hope to set standards in the development of a regional hydrogen infrastructure and sustainable mobility in local rail passenger transport.

The main focus of the project on building a closed, regional hydrogen infrastructure. This will include recycling the hydrogen produced for district services.

It’s also intended that the project will contribute to reducing costs along the entire value chain, from (green) energy production to final consumption.

The switch from diesel to hydrogen, which will be obtained from regenerative and regionally generated electricity, will lead to an annual saving of 1.1m litres of diesel fuel, or three million kilograms of CO2.

The development of the Heidekrautbahn network’s hydrogen infrastructure can now begin. This entails the procurement of fuel cell trains, the construction of a hydrogen plant and tank systems. These will take place within the framework of an EU-wide tender.

The project to reactivate the main line of the Heidekrautbahn, which is part of the infrastructure project i2030, will also benefit from this project. This aims to improve connections in the north of Berlin.

The start of operations on the main route between Basdorf and Wilhelmsruh is scheduled to coincide with the commissioning of the hydrogen vehicles on the Heidekrautbahn at the end of 2024.

Susanne Henckel, Managing Director of the Berlin-Brandenburg Transport Association (VBB), said:

“This research contract is an absolute milestone for everyone involved and especially for the passengers. We’re working closely with the federal states and the NEB on the main route of the Heidekrautbahn and now want to implement a better rail connection in the northern area of Berlin as quickly as possible.

“The new, attractive direct line from the northern settlement axis to Berlin's city centre will primarily benefit commuters and tourists.

“The fact that hydrogen-powered trains are also being used for the first time in the capital region is the icing on the cake of this project: sustainability, climate protection and the turnaround in traffic are consistently interlinked here. The conceptual and planning work of the last few years has paid off!”

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