Hydrogen trains on line between Faenza and Florence

The Faentina (Faenza-Florence) railway line was recently included among those where experimentation with hydrogen fueling of trains will start as early as 2023.

This was announced by the Table on hydrogen experimentation set up at the General Directorate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, which considered the Faenza-Florence, the so-called Train of Dante, as a rail route “potentially susceptible to conversion from diesel to hydrogen.” In Italy, out of more than 16,000 km of railways as many as 4,700 (or nearly 30 percent) are not electrified.

A condition that every day sees 1250 rail convoys with diesel traction, which is rather polluting. This includes the Faenza-Florence Apennine train. The line, which is managed by the Region of Tuscany while the infrastructure is the responsibility of Rete ferroviaria italiana, is currently non-electrified and served by diesel trains, so converting it to hydrogen would represent a major technological leap forward.

A hydrogen storage and dispensing station to charge trains is already being worked on in Tuscany. In addition, Ravenna would also be able to make a significant amount of hydrogen available as part of the Agnes wind and photovoltaic project off Ravenna. The conversion would lead the way for the broader discussion of green transition in other sectors.

For the Faentina, the advantage would be twofold in that the problem of complex electrification can be overcome, because since it is a historic line (opened in 1893) there are bridges, tunnels, and viaducts that are protected.

To equip these artifacts would require complicated and expensive works, such as lowering the “iron plane” inside the tunnels, or installing anti-landscape apparatus. As it is today, the route would, on the other hand, already be ready for the new supply of trains. The project has the full support of the Emilia Romagna and Tuscany regions, mainly because the new power supply would cut emissions by 40 percent Only green hydrogen, derived from the electrolysis splitting of water-forming molecules, would not be used.

The use on non-electric trainsets of hydrogen called ‘gray’ hydrogen, because it is of fossil origin though low in pollution, would also still be more advantageous than diesel. According to one study, hydrogen trains become advantageous on routes of at least a hundred kilometers and can run for 18 hours continuously with 20-minute stops for refueling. The performance associated with diesel or hydrogen power is the same, while the cost of the new power is lower than the old one. The other regions involved in the upcoming trial are, in addition to Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Lombardy, Abruzzo, Apulia, Sicily and Calabria.

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