Ontario is taking the next steps in exploring the potential of hydrail as an alternative to conventional electric trains, as Ontario transforms the GO network into a rapid-transit system to provide faster and more frequent service for commuters.
Kathryn McGarry, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, was in Toronto last Thursday to release the province’s Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study, which found that it would be feasible to build and operate electrified rail service on GO Transit and the UP Express using hydrogen-powered trains at a cost comparable to conventional electrification using overhead wires.
“The potential benefit of hydrogen fuel cells compared to overhead wires makes exploring hydrogen rail technology worthwhile,” said Minister McGarry. “Our government is taking the next step in assessing how this important technology could work for our own transit system.”
Ontario is engaging with train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens to produce concept designs that incorporate hydrogen fuel cells into bi-level trains similar to those currently used by GO Transit. In addition, the province is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for designs for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive, which could lead to a prototype rail vehicle that would be tested on the GO rail network.
Electrifying the GO rail network is part of the largest rail project in Canada as Ontario transforms GO from a commuter transit system to a regional rapid transit system. Weekly trips across the entire GO rail network are expected to grow from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2025, with more two-way, all-day and 15-minute services.
Hydrogen-powered trains can provide electrified rail services without the need for overhead catenary wires.
Unlike conventional electric trains, which draw power from the electrical grid while operating, hydrogen can be produced off-peak using renewable energy and stored for future use at a cost comparable to conventional electric rail systems.
Since 2013, Ontario has built three new GO stations, renovated 10 existing GO stations, and added approximately 7,000 new GO station parking spots. The province has also purchased 264 new GO buses, 150 new GO train coaches, and 10 new GO train locomotives.