The Zillertalbahn in Austria wants to be the first narrow gauge railway in the world to operate hydrogen powered trains. In four years. The company’s supervisory board has decided to start an energy transition moving away from diesel improving quality of life in general and public transport in the Inn valley in particular.
Today the operator announced its ambitious plan to change the current mobility situation in the valley which is ‘unsustainable’. The Zillertalbahn wants to become a showcase for environmentally friendly, modern mobility and sustainable tourism – not only for the Tyrol region, but also for the Alpine region, and the rest of the world.
The plan’s roadmap is ‘athletic’. During the next four years a prototype train will have to be built, new trains have to be ordered and a local hydrogen power plant needs to be constructed. The projects’ funding needs to be completed, the new trains will require an investment of around 80 million euro. These then will be used for at least thirty years.
Currently, Zillertalbahn’s diesel trains need at least 800,000 liters of diesel pro annum, and emit 2,160 tonnes of CO2. Both electrification and hydrogen-power were researched as possible alternatives, finally resulting in the company selecting the latter option. Talking about the final decision, the Zillertalbahn states that 30 percent of the hydroelectric power generated in Tyrol comes from the Zillertal. There are nine hydroelectric power plants and five storage lakes so it makes sense to use these regional resources. Extra nice: the transition will also bring energy autonomy to the operator.
Investing in this new technology inly make sense if the Zillertalbahn can become the true backbone of transport through the Inn valley. The railway will have to offer quick and direct connections with the valley stations in the area that take people directly to the ski pistes.
Railcolor: The Zillertalbahn connects Jenback with Mayrhofen in Austria, in a very popular touristic winter sport area. The images that were released today show a train that resembles the former ÖBB 4090 series EMUs. The seven cars of this type (one 3-car and one 4-car unit) were sold to the Salzburg region in 2015. Intermediate cars are now being used in loco-hauled trains on the Pinzgauer Lokalbahn.