Born in 2015 with key aims to produce low cost, low maintenance rolling stock, develop systems and designs that would make use of emerging technologies, and bring innovative ideas to all stakeholders in the rail industry, UK-based Vivarail was launched with bold ambitions.
In just four years since, the company has grown from ambitious start-up to fully-fledged train manufacturer. Today, Vivarail can point to its fully approved three-car DEMU that has been in mainline passenger use, a soon-to-be-approved two-car battery train that will be used as a demonstrator vehicle, and the introduction of no less than three, two-car trains to service for the Marston Vale line.
With expanded premises at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, a new factory opened at Seaham, and continued patented innovations throughout the railcar, Vivarail is clearly a force to be reckoned with in the rail sector.
It’s also a progressive rail firm with a green agenda at its core and sees hydrogen trains as one of the fundamental building blocks to decarbonising this transport sector. Alice Gillman, Head of Marketing at Vivarail, took five minutes out with H2 View to discuss change in the rail ecosystem and a hydrogen-fuelled future.
Thanks for giving H2 View your time. Tell us a bit about Vivarail, its role in the future hydrogen economy and why you believe in hydrogen energy…
We’ve always built our trains with green issues at their core – it’s why we invested in the UK’s first modern battery train which we launched last year. We are heavily involved in the rail industry’s decarbonisation programme and see hydrogen trains as one of the fundamental building blocks to removing diesel units.
What changes have you seen within the trains/locomotive ecosystem where hydrogen and alternative fuels are concerned?
There is a lot of knowledge and skill being built in the UK currently – we all know hydrogen trains work but it’s a case of making them work here. Our gauge is different to Europe so housing tanks on the roof is not possible. Therefore, the design of the trains is going to be key to making them work – we believe putting everything beneath the floor is logical as it means passenger space is not compromised.
Where do you feel the challenges currently are in this space?
For rail it is infrastructure and support; sensible planning so that fuel points are located at depots, and the support of everyone working together cohesively with an eye to the future as more trains become hydrogen-powered.
Political support is also key. There will be risks involved and some brave decisions need to be made, not least regarding funding.
If you could communicate one hydrogen-related message to our readers and the general public at large, what would it be?
Whilst hydrogen trains are not a complete panacea our research shows that they can have a place very quickly in the UK’s rolling stock strategy – and at Vivarail we are in a great position to bring that about.