Hydrogen-powered trains mooted as UK unveils £800 million rail project

The UK could see the introduction of environmentally-friendly trains powered by hydrogen or new battery technology as part of a major £800 million investment

The money will go toward funding two railways lines which have been closed to passengers since the 1960s.

East West Rail, which will eventually connect Oxford and Cambridge, is to receive £760 million to open new parts of the line.

The Northumberland Line, which still carries freight traffic, will receive £34 million for initial work aimed at reintroducing passenger services.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the investments would return these routes “to their former glory”.

Diesel engines will initially run on the lines, but Mr Shapps said he hoped more environmentally friendly trains, for example powered by hydrogen or new battery technology, would replace them in the future.

“We’re building it in such a way that we can use, probably, the very latest technology, potentially, in the future,” he said.

The East West Rail investment will rebuild a train line between Bicester and Bletchley which was closed in 1968.

The project is being delivered by a publicly-owned body called the East West Company.

The first phase of East West Rail, which was completed in 2016, connected Oxford and Bicester. At the moment, rail passengers wishing to go from Oxford to Bletchley have to take a detour via Coventry.

The aim is to have trains running between Oxford and Bletchley by 2025, with new stations at Winslow and Bletchley.

The Department for Transport claimed the works will create 1,500 jobs, and have a wider economic benefit for the area.

The eventual aim of the project, which the government expects to be completed by the end of the decade, is to connect Oxford and Cambridge by rail via Bedford, taking in Milton Keynes and Aylesbury on branches.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said the Northumberland Line was “a really critical piece of local infrastructure” that would help bring people in south east Northumberland and north Tyneside closer to Newcastle city centre, and closer to well-paid jobs.

“Having better connectivity will help attract businesses to that area, and it will help to deliver genuine levelling-up,” he said.

The new £34m investment, which aims to reopen the line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, will include funds for preparatory works and land acquisition.

There are plans for new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth, Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval, and Northumberland Park, in North Tyneside, as well as upgrades to the track and changes to level crossings where new bridges or underpasses were needed, the Department for Transport said.

The eventual aim of the project, which the government expects to be completed by the end of the decade, is to connect Oxford and Cambridge by rail via Bedford, taking in Milton Keynes and Aylesbury on branches.

SHARE: