New battery hybrid train to slash European rail emissions by 50%

Hayley Everett
Hitachi Rail and Trenitalia's hybrid 'tri-mode' Blues Train. Photo via Hitachi Rail.

Global rail provider Hitachi Rail and Italian train operator Trenitalia have unveiled their pioneering ‘Blues Train’ at Innotrans, which will be the first battery hybrid fleet passenger service in Europe when it starts running in Italy later this year.

The hybrid ‘tri-mode’ train can switch between battery, electric and diesel power and is slated to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption by more than 50%.

The Blues Train will be introduced into passenger service in Italy later this year, promising to offer ‘more seamless, sustainable travel' for passengers. The framework agreed between Hitachi and Trenitalia includes the supply of up to 135 trains worth €1.2 billion.

“The Blues Train, with its pioneering battery hybrid technology, is a hugely important way for railways across Europe to reduce their carbon emissions while improving passengers’ journeys,” said Andrew Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail. “We’re thrilled to unveil this technology here in Berlin and to begin passenger service in Italy later this year.

“We know that decarbonising transport is a vital mission around Europe, so we’re delighted to provide our customer with effective solutions that lessen the impact on the planet.”

The Blues Train

Equipped with the ability to arrive at and depart from stations completely under battery power, the Blues Train is dubbed one of the ‘most advanced’ trains in the world and represents a significant breakthrough in the market.

The train is able to operate seamlessly on electrified and non-electrified lines. On electrified routes, the train uses pantographs to draw power from the overhead lines, and on non-electrified lines a combination of battery and diesel power takes over. When the train nears a station, its batteries kick in and power the train completely in order to reduce harmful NOx emissions and noise pollution.

The train’s battery can recharge while the train is in operation in both diesel and electric mode. While the fleet’s top speed is 160kmh, the extra power offered by the on-board batteries means the acceleration and performance of the train is reportedly superior to that of existing diesel trains. Potentially, this could offer reduced journey times for passengers.

Additionally, the Blues Train is equipped with European Rail Traffic Management system (ERTMS) digital signalling, which has until now only been used on high speed trains. Through regulating the speed, acceleration and braking of trains, the system supports the reduction of the railway’s energy and emissions footprint. Recognised as the European rail standard, ERTMS improves safety by enabling the automatic activation of train safety functions such as emergency braking.

Made up of four carriages, the Blues trains have been manufactured at Hitachi Rail’s factories in Pistoia and Naples, and can accommodate up to 300 people. From a design perspective, the trains have been designed to accommodate leisure travellers and commuters alike, offering more capacity for luggage and bikes, more USB and power sockets for improved connectivity, air conditioning, and the latest in passenger information screens.

Additional features of the Blues Train include platform level door access to improve ease of entry and departure for wheelchair users or passengers with pushchairs, alongside innovative passenger counting technology. Another feather in the train’s sustainability cap is the fact that it is made with 93% recycled materials, with 96% recoverable. 


Introducing the Hybrid Regional ‘Blues’ Train | Hitachi Rail

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