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Metrolinx exploring hydrogen-powered GO trains

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

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The province and Metrolinx are looking into a study that could zap the use of conventional overhead wires.

Ontario is conducting a feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cells as part of the Metrolinx Regional Express Rail program. It’s also calling for companies to put forward concept designs.

The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains could see the transit agency deliver faster and more frequent electrified rail service on the GO rail network and UP Express.

“We want to see who’s interested at this point, what they can provide, bring those industry leaders to see what are our options to electrify our services,” said Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins.

“Make no mistake. Electrification is underway.”

Their goal is to put the brakes on diesel locomotives, but it’s too soon to say whether the technology is viable.

“So far, there’s only one hydrogen-powered prototype train in Germany — there’s not many other examples,” said transportation expert Murtaza Haider.

“It’s not a high-speed train. I think the maximum speed is 85 miles per hour and it’s also for a shorter distance, not for long-haul.”

Nonetheless, he thinks the study is a move in the right direction. especially considering the trains will be a lot quieter.

“These are long-term investments made for 30 to 50 years down the road,” he said. “Picking the right technology that is adaptive is key, so we can upgrade it as time and innovation takes place.”

Metrolinx said it’s a huge undertaking and will be costly. It’s part of a $21-billion modernization project.

The Hydrogen Feasibility Study is expected to be complete by the end of 2017 and a decision on how to electrify the transit system will be taken shortly after.

The Metrolinx Regional Express Rail program will bring two-way, all day service to commuters across the GTHA, with an anticipated 6,000 weekly trips by 2025.

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