America’s First Hydrogen-Powered Train Coming to Southern California

America’s First Hydrogen-Powered Train Coming to Southern California

Rendering of a zero-emission, hydrogen-powered passenger train. (Courtesy of Caltrans)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

11/1/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

San Bernardino County, California, is awaiting the arrival of a zero-emission hydrogen-powered passenger train from Switzerland, the first of its kind in the United States.
Metrolink, operator of a rail line running between downtown Los Angeles and San Bernardino, will run the hydrogen-powered train along a nine-mile track between downtown San Bernardino and the University of Redlands with four stops along the way, according to Tim Watkins, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA).
“We think we needed a zero-emission solution,” Mr. Watkins told The Epoch Times. “That’s why we pursued this and we’re very excited to be bringing the first into service.”
SBCTA launched passenger service last year to Redlands, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
The county’s transportation authority worked with the California State Transportation Agency and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to buy the Swiss-made Stadler train in 2018 through a $30 million state grant from the California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Nicole Mowers.
The funds paid for the development and purchase of one 2-car train set and the conversion of two 2-car diesel train sets into zero-emission trains.
Officials sign a historic $80 million contract for the first zero-emission, hydrogen-powered intercity passenger trains in North America. (Courtesy of Caltrans)

Officials sign a historic $80 million contract for the first zero-emission, hydrogen-powered intercity passenger trains in North America. (Courtesy of Caltrans)

The state is also getting in on the newest trend in eco-friendly trains following SBCTA’s successful deal. Caltrans has purchased four trains based on the same hydrogen-powered technology for $80 million using funds set aside by Gov. Gavin Newsom in an $10 billion, multiyear zero-emission vehicle package, the agency announced Oct. 12.
The hydrogen-powered trains in the train sets will have four cars each, Ms. Mowers said, and will run between Sacramento and Merced on a new service called “Valley Rail,” operated by the San Joaquin Regional Rain Commission. The trains are expected to be running by early 2027, she added.
“These are complete trainsets—passenger areas and hydrogen fuel-powered engines built together—like a BART or light rail train,” Ms. Mowers told The Epoch Times. “This is, in part, why they are more efficient (lighter weight) and more affordable than traditional sets of locomotive and coaches.”
San Bernardino’s train arrived in the U.S. in September and is expected to arrive in the California county in April and go into service in the fall of 2024, according to SBCTA.
Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (FLIRT). (Courtesy of Caltrans)

Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (FLIRT). (Courtesy of Caltrans)

Some of the county’s transportation authority staff members were able to see the train at an expo in Florida last month.
“It was very exciting to see how people were experiencing these clean-air, quiet trains,” Mr. Watkins said.
The vehicles will be based on Stadler’s fast, light, intercity, and regional train (FLIRT) concept for electric-powered railcars.
“It is great to be part of California’s move toward eco-friendly travel with another zero-emission project in the state, and we look forward to continuing our work with the California State Transportation Agency and Caltrans to make this a reality,” said Martin Ritter, CEO of Stadler US, in a press release Oct. 12.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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