AECOM Signs MoU to Develop Hydrogen-Powered Railway in Central Italy

AECOM has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Spanish renewables group Iberdrola, and Italian partners Cinque International and Ancitel Energy and Environment, to replace Italy’s Apennine diesel railway with hydrogen trains.

Route of the Terni-Rieti-L'Aquila-Sulmona railway (red line), in central Italy.Route of the Terni-Rieti-L’Aquila-Sulmona railway (red line), in central Italy.

The partners are working on four projects to support sustainable economic recovery in the Apennine region, which was badly affected by earthquakes in 2009 and 2016 and has suffered from decades of depopulation.

The first project is the upgrade of the 300km Apennine line, which will be one of Italy’s first hydrogen railways.

The line runs from the town of Sansepolcro in the northern province of Arezzo to Sulmona, a city in the central province of L’Aquila.

The focus on this line is strategically important because it connects a number of inland areas through four central regions. A portion of the line has not been electrified and is currently using diesel trains that will be replaced as part of the programme.

The MoU also includes pre-feasibility work for a new rail line powered by ‘green hydrogen’ linking Rome with Ascoli Piceno, a province in the Marche region, while the third project is to assess the potential for diffused green hydrogen manufacturing activity in the region.

The final project will look at ways to apply new energy and environmental technologies in post-earthquake reconstruction.

The projects align with the aims of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, a European Commission-led group looking at an ambitious deployment of hydrogen technologies by 2030 to support the EU’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

In July 2021, the Apennine Railway project was pre-selected by the European Commission in its framework of activities for the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, which aims to build a pipeline of viable investment projects and scale up the deployment of green hydrogen in Europe.