By the end of 2021, Scotland is set to have its first train that runs on hydrogen power, thanks to a new project from the Scottish government and a group of engineering companies that specialize in the development of hydrogen fuel cells. Though the initiative has just been announced, it’s expected that the train will be ready in only 10 months.

"Hydrogen traction power offers a safe, reliable and zero-carbon alternative for Scotland’s rail network," said Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy, the company leading the program. "The hydrogen train project is an excellent opportunity for industry leaders in hydrogen, rail engineering and safety to collaborate with Scottish technology providers to develop a deployment-ready solution."

Scotland expects to have its first hydrogen-powered train by the end of the year
Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct in Scotland: the country's first hydrogen-powered train is expected to be operational by the end of 2021 © Nick Fox/Shutterstock

Scotland has adopted a strong stance against climate change and is working toward decarbonizing all of the country’s passenger rail services by 2035, five years ahead of the wider United Kingdom’s target date of 2040. Scotland has also pledged to decarbonize flights within the country by 2040.

"This project is not only a crucial step in helping us understand the practical challenges of using hydrogen traction power on our railways but an example of the type of investment Scotland needs to take advantage of the opportunity to build a secure, flexible, cost-effective and zero-carbon energy network," said Clare Lavelle, Scotland Energy Business Lead at Arup, an engineering consultancy that’s part of the consortium.

Train travel has become increasingly popular across Europe as travelers look to lessen their carbon footprints. New research has shown that some train journeys across the continent are actually faster than flying, and Europe’s network of night trains is set to see an impressive expansion over the next few years, with new links connecting 13 cities. Operators from Spain to the Czech Republic are offering low-cost, no-frills train services in hopes of better competing with budget airlines.

Read more: 

Europe’s new night trains offer travelers an alternative to flying
10 of the world's most amazing train journeys
The European train journeys that are even faster than flying

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