Battery and hydrogen trains for ScotRail ‘could make Scotland a world leader’ in zero emissions transport

A manufacturer told Scotland on Sunday it could even see Britain’s first major battery-powered fleet operating north of the border, halving the cost of electrified lines.

Routes expected to be among the early benefits include the Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, Fife Circle and Glasgow-East Kilbride.

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Industry leaders are impressed with the Scottish Government’s progress towards its goal of phasing out all diesel trains from ScotRail by 2035.

A Vivarail battery train on the Fife Circle line near Forth Bridge, where overhead power wires cannot be installed due to height restrictions. Image: Railway network

This is set to accelerate when ministers take control of ScotRail in three weeks, with Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth already signaling that its 40-year-old refurbished Inter7City trains could be withdrawn before 2030 as planned due to highlighted shortcomings after one was involved in the fatal accident in Aberdeenshire.

Around 40% of Scotland’s network is electrified, accounting for three out of every four journeys, but it is largely in the central belt and only stretches as far north as Dunblane.

While many manufacturers are developing battery-powered trains, Vivarail demonstrated the technology in Scotland at last year’s COP26 climate change summit with a converted London Underground prototype train.

Spanish railway builder Talgo is hoping to land an order that would allow it to open a factory on the site of the former Longannet power station in Fife.

UK Managing Director Jon Veitch said: “We are really excited about future train purchases for Scotland, where I think we have the right mix of high quality trains using advanced propulsion technologies. alternatives and proven.

“We are about to start operating our hydrogen and electric TPH2 train with a range of 500 km (311 miles) in Spain, which would be perfect for routes in the Far North [Inverness-Wick/Thurso].

“It will also cement a vibrant future at Longannet.”

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Another multinational manufacturer said: “The supply will be quite large – and it will be very competitive due to the lack of new orders in the south.

“The first proper battery-powered train would position Scotland as a world leader as well as one of the leaders in new rail technology in the UK.

‘Transport Scotland is much more on battery-powered trains than the UK government, meaning an entire route doesn’t need to be electrified.’

The company described the Borders Railway as an “ideal candidate” to lead the way as studies have shown battery-powered trains will more than halve the cost of electrifying and operating the line.

The trains could run on batteries for half of the 35-mile route, which could be recharged on the electrified sections.

Robert Samson, of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said travelers must be included in the design of these new trains.

He said they should offer flexibility to meet changing needs, such as the ability to easily replace some seats with more luggage space if leisure travel continues to grow at the expense of commuting.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We are currently exploring a range of options with regard to the introduction of emission-free rolling stock for Scottish Railways as part of our ambitious decarbonisation action plan, that will decarbonize passenger services by 2035.

“These include the electrification of conventional routes, hydrogen and battery-powered trains.”

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