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Hydrail Projects

Metrolinx has been investigating the feasibility of using a hydrail system for one of the largest and most complex rail upgrades in the world.

Recent advances in the use of hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) to power trains in other jurisdictions make it important that Metrolinx considers this clean technology. The Minister of Transportation announced in June 2017 that Metrolinx would be undertaking a feasibility study. Since then, we have completed the study report and it is now available. We also hosted an international symposium in November 2017 and made progress on both the HFC Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) concept design and the HFC locomotive concept design and prototype project.

While the hydrail projects progress and we continue to investigate which technology will be the right solution for the GO rail network, we are still very much focused on delivering faster and cleaner electrified services in 2025.

Hydrail Feasibility Study Report

Metrolinx recently released the Hydrail Feasibility Study Report. The study investigated the technical and economic feasibility of the Hydrail System using hydrogen fuel cells to electrify the GO rail service. It’s an exploration of how hydrogen fuel cell technology, as an alternative to traditional overhead wires, can support the operation of a large scale commuter rail network.

Key Findings

  • It should be technically feasible to build and operate the GO Transit network using hydrogen fuel cell powered rail vehicles
  • The overall lifetime costs of building and operating the Hydrail System are equivalent to that of a conventional overhead electrification system
  • The implementation of the Hydrail System of this scale and complexity is innovative and presents a different set of risks as well as benefits, as compared to conventional electrification

The report is an important milestone and moves Ontario a step closer to implementing electrified rail services. To get more details on the study, read this Fact Sheet or download the full Hydrail Feasibility Study Report.

Hydrail Feasibility Study Report

HFC Locomotive Pilot

Currently, GO rail vehicles are locomotives that are powered by diesel engines. An HFC locomotive would be an electrically powered locomotive where the electricity is generated using hydrogen that is stored on-board the train.

Metrolinx plans to commission concept designs for an HFC locomotive and will then consider building a prototype that could be introduced into service on the GO Transit Network. The prototype would gather valuable feedback on operations, performance, and reliability.

EMU Design Concept

An electric multiple unit or EMU is a multiple unit train consisting of self-propelled carriages, using electricity as the power that drives the train. An EMU requires no separate locomotive. An HFC EMU is an EMU where the electricity is generated using hydrogen that is stored on-board the train. Ontario is engaging with train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens to produce concept designs that incorporate hydrogen fuel cells into bi-level trains similar to those currently used by GO Transit.

Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) Procurement Process

Metrolinx is intending to engage a contractor to upgrade the GO network using a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) model. As part of the tender process, bidders will be able to propose both hydrail and overhead wire technology to electrify the GO network. The benefit of this DBFOM approach is it allows one single party to manage all the interrelated decisions necessary and oversee each phase of the process from design to maintenance. This ensures optimal performance is achieved for the entire system, which can create efficiencies.


Ontario Taking Next Steps in Testing Hydrogen-Powered Train Technology

Ontario Hosts International Symposium on Hydrogen-Powered Rail

Ontario Seeking Design Concepts for Hydrogen-Powered GO Trains

Ontario Taking Major Step Forward to Electrify the GO Rail Network


We also hosted an international hydrail symposium in November 2017. Click here to view a webcast of the event.