‘Ghent harbour to consider hydrogen trains’
Today the region of the Ghent harbour, between Ghent and Zelzate, only has a railway line with diesel trains for transporting goods. Political party Open Vld would like to have a railway connection for public transport too, but would rather prefer a ‘green’ alternative: hydrogen trains.
No harmful emissions
“Ten thousands of people in the harbour zone have to take the car because there are no passenger trains available”, says Ghent’s alderman, Christophe Peeters (Open Vld). The Belgian railway company, NMBS/SNCB, is now analyzing whether passenger trains in that region would be possible and profitable.
“Hydrogen trains only emit steam and condensed water and the hydrogen used by the trains is a residue product of industrial processes”, Peeters explains. According to the alderman it would be perfectly possible to build a hydrogen plant in the Ghent harbour to make the import of hydrogen unnecessary.
In the meantime some companies have already shown interest in the project, among them ArcelorMittal, at this moment the biggest user of the railway connection. By making the line cross the Dutch border in the future to Terneuzen, Peeters counts on European subsidies and hopes to find other companies willing to participate.
Transport company Alstom would deliver the hydrogen trains, just like they did for some German states, where the first passenger tests are running now.
Not everybody is enthusiastic about the plans, though. Aviel Verbruggen, professor energy economy of the Antwerp university admits the advantages of hydrogen, but also points out at the danger: “hydrogen is highly inflammable”. He thinks propelling trains on it is not a smart idea.
George Allaert of the institute for sustainable mobility (Instituut voor Duurzame Mobiliteit, UGent) puts the danger of hydrogen trains into perspective. “Hydrogen is not more dangerous than CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), which is used in the automotive sector. This does not mean that it is 100% risk-free, but what is?”