Heath path of Alstrom: Hydrogen trains in Berlin and Brandenburg

:Berlin and Brandenburg get the world’s first hydrogen trains

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  • Peter Neumann

    Peter Neumann

Ready to go in Basdorf: The Coradia iLint will be ready for the special trip to Berlin.

Ready to go in Basdorf: The Coradia iLint will be ready for the special trip to Berlin. From 2022 such trains should run daily on the Heidekrautbahn.


Gerd Engelsmann

White swaths rise as the blue train enters. “That does not just look like water vapor, that’s one of them,” said Thomas Dill of Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB).

Emission-free heather path from 2022

He was one of the guests of a premiere ride of a special kind on Monday. For the first time, the fuel cell train of the French train builder Alstom rolled through Berlin and Brandenburg. The journey of the train called Coradia iLint, which is built in Salzgitter and only fueled by hydrogen, led from Basdorf (Barnim) to the station Gesundbrunnen and back again.

A foretaste of the future – because on the Heidekrautbahn northeast of Berlin from the end of 2022 only such trains go: emission-free and fairly quiet.

Basdorf station, Monday at 9.45. The swaths have cleared, the train is ready to board. At first glance, it looks like a diesel railcar. But the roof construction is special: Behind the panels are two hydrogen tanks, each holding 220 kilos. “That’s enough for a thousand kilometers,” says Jens Sprotte of Alstom. Once refueling at 350 bar takes a quarter of an hour.

Brandenburg wants innovative trains

The fuel cells are also mounted on the roof. They deliver the power so that the train can accelerate to 140 km / h. In the aggregates, the entrained hydrogen reacts with the atmospheric oxygen. In this case, water vapor and water accumulate. No soot, no carbon dioxide escapes from the exhaust.

“This move shows that emission-free mobility is no longer a dream of the future,” says Sprotte. This and another blue railcar have been in service since September 2018 between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven and Buxtehude. These are the first fuel cell trains in the world, the railways and transport companies tell Elbe-Weser. Meanwhile, for Lower Saxony, a further 14 fuel cell trains were purchased.

“We hope that such trains will also be available in future with the red Brandenburg-Adler,” said Brandenburg’s infrastructure minister Kathrin Schneider (SPD) in Basdorf. “We want to break new ground and support innovative projects for non-electrified lines.” Leading is the Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB), which cooperates with the district of Barnim, the VBB and the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg.

Heidekrautbahn is best suited for electric driving

The Uckermrker company Enertrag is to generate from wind the green power, with whose help the hydrogen is won. Solar power is also used. In just under four years could then start the emission-free train operation. The network of the regional railway line RB27 – also known as the heather track – extends in the north to Gro Schnebeck in the Schorfheide and Schmachtenhagen, in the south to Berlin-Karow and Gesundbrunnen. In the diesel railcars, which roll there today, 4000 passengers are traveling daily. In 2023, the trunk line goes back to Wilhelmsruh, where the history of the railway began in 1901.

Electric driving without catenary: For the heather path would be ideal, said NEB CEO Detlef Brcker. A lot is being built on the track. “There are more and more residents who will be happy about the quiet trains.” Berliners are also on the way there: excursionists to the Schorfheide, the Wandlitzsee and the Liepnitzsee.

New trains also planned for additional routes

Again, the change in traffic costs a lot of money. For the flagship project in Barnim 35 million euros from federal and state funds are needed. The fuel cell trains cost more than diesel vehicles – even if it is not twice as current at the electric busses. Currently, one kilo of hydrogen can cost three times as much as a liter of diesel, said Thomas Dill. But after eight to ten years, the expenses are as low as diesel. “Then we have a tie,” said Tanja Kampa of Alstom.

Meanwhile, VBB is preparing the next project. Also on the regional rail lines RB33, 37 and 51, which lead, inter alia, to Berlin Wannsee, Jterbog and Rathenow, the diesel era is to end. “There could be battery trains,” Dill said. Since part of the routes runs under contact wire, the batteries could be charged via catenary.