In a bid to transform how people move around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), the Government of Ontario is seeking design concepts for hydrogen (H2)-powered trains as an alternative to conventional overheard wires.

Ontario transport officials are currently planning to electrify the GO rail network, through the GO Regional Express Rail (RER) programme, in order to transform it into a rapid transit system. The Government is investment approximately C$21.3bn ($17.2bn) into this programme.

As part of planning the electrification, Ontario is undertaking a feasibility study on the use of H2 fuel cells. Ontario says it’s the recent advances in the use of H2 fuel cells to power electric trains in other jurisdictions that makes it important that Ontario consider this clean electric technology as an alternative to conventional overhead wires. The Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study will inform a decision on how Ontario will proceed with the electrification of GO rail services.

The study will see a number of rail vehicle manufacturers commissioned to prepare designs and to demonstrate the impact that incorporating H2 fuel cells into bi-level trains would have on the performance of the GO rail network.

The Hydrail Feasibility Study is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2017, with a decision on electrification technology to follow.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, explained, “Electrifying GO rail service is a major step forward for public transit in our province. The work we are doing on electrification today represents a significant investment that will impact Ontarians for generations. It is critical we get it right. I look forward to reviewing the results of the Hydrail Feasibility Study.”