A feasibility study conducted by Bauhaus University Weimar previously found that the 25-km Schwarzatal funicular railway line was best suited for a pilot hydrogen fuel cell train project. The Schwarzatal funicular railway in the Thuringian Forest is used by some 128,000 passengers a year. The energy for the hydrogen production is to come from wind farms in the region. According to Thuringia’s Ministry of the Environment, €20 million is being invested in the project. Around 70% of railroad tracks in Thuringia are not electrified, which is why diesel locomotives are deployed on these sections. The fuel cell trains are an environmentally-friendly alternative, and are also more cost-effective than electric trains, for which overhead lines would have to be built.
At a test run at the start of February , Alstom’s hydrogen fuel cell train Coradia iLint – currently the only train in the world equipped with this technology – was used on the line. The train, built by Alstom in Salzgitter, has been operating on the line between Cuxhaven and Buxtehude since September 2018.