BCRRE recognised for its HydroFlex work

BCRRE recognised for its HydroFlex work

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham has been recognised in the Guardian University Awards 2020 for its work in the UK’s first hydrogen powered train, HydroFLEX.

The HydroFLEX pilot, a partnership between BCRRE and railway stock leasing company Porterbrook, involves the fitment of a hydrogen powerpack to an existing Class 319 train, which would eventually allow it to run on conventional electrified routes as well as independently.

It is the world’s first retro-fitted hydrogen train and the UK’s first train powered this way.

HydroFLEX rose from a student-led project into a narrow-gauge hydrogen-powered locomotive which sits wholly within the UK’s decarbonisation goals.

This inspired Porterbrook to generate a collaborative research and innovation project between industry and BCRRE; combining education and research within one sector-focused Centre.

To bring this to life, Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham agreed to invest in the collaboration and worked to a tight deadline to convert an old Thameslink electric train into a hydrogen-powered one.

BCRRE has today announced it has been recognised in the Guardian University Awards 2020, shortlisted in the category of Business Collaboration.

This category looks for an outstanding university partnership with a business or an industry – regional, national or international – where knowledge is applied, and resources are shared for the benefit of the broader economy.

“Porterbrook is committed to delivering a more reliable and sustainable railway,” said Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook.

“As part of this commitment we have been delighted to work in a unique partnership with the University of Birmingham on the delivery of HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen powered train.”

“The team at the University of Birmingham have shown themselves to be highly attuned to the needs of their private sector partner and have exhibited excellence in R&D that has enabled us to jointly deliver this project in record time.”

From initial concepts in November 2018, through detailed design and manufacture, close collaboration allowed for seamless communication and trust across the team.

As a result, the project was delivered in just nine months. The working demo train debuted in June 2019 at Rail Live.

With evidence of a working demo train, the University secured £350,000 Innovate UK funding for mainline testing of a hydrogen-fuelled train funded by the Department for Transport’s First of a Kind competition. Testing is scheduled for March 2020.


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