North America saw its first ever journey made by a hydrogen train on Saturday, as an Alstom-made Coradia iLint locomotive powered by H2 fuel cells made its debut along a tourist railway line in the Canadian province of Québec.

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The roughly 85km-long route takes around an hour and a half to travel from the provincial capital Québec City along the non-electrified Charlevoix Railway route on the banks of the St Lawrence River to the city of Baie St Paul.

It will continue to operate as a tourist train until late September 2023, as part of a demonstration project launched in February by the Québécois government, railway owner Chemin de Charlevoix, tourist line operator Train de Charlevoix, local fuel retailer Harnois Énergies — which is providing green hydrogen for the project — and global technology consultancy HTEC.

The demonstration project is being funded with the help of C$3m (US$2.3m) in cash from the Québécois government.

Green hydrogen for the trains is mostly likely being supplied from Harnois Énergies' hydrogen filling station for road vehicles in in Québec City, advertised as the only green H2 filling station in the province.

Made using an electrolyser on-site, all electricity used to make the hydrogen is sourced from renewables, Harnois claims, without giving further details.

Québec's power mix is made up of around 94% hydroelectricity, meaning it would be relatively simple to classify hydrogen made using grid electricity as "green", even under the strictest rules currently being rolled out in Europe.

The H2 train demonstration will be used to underpin France-based Alstom’s commercial strategy for hydrogen trains in North America, which is currently behind its European counterparts on H2-powered rail travel.

“Running this train with passengers on board will allow Alstom and its partners to better assess subsequent steps for the development of hydrogen propulsion technology and its penetration into the North American market,” tourist operator Train de Charlevoix says on its website.

But Train de Charlevoix will be keen to avoid the problems with Alstom’s hydrogen trains seen on Germany’s pioneering hydrogen line in Frankfurt — dubbed the “misery line” — which has been beset by technical problems.

However, the Canadian debut appeared to go without a hitch, judging by local broadcast footage of the event.

In Germany, plans for a full hydrogen line remain behind schedule.

The first six Coradia iLint H2 trains delivered to the German line’s operator RMV by Alstom proved to be defective — requiring retrofitting of new hardware and software components.

Two did go into service on the RB15 line on the planned start date, 11 December 2022, and there are now 12 locomotives operating on the line. The full complement of 27 trains operating on four lines are not expected to come into operation until September at the earliest.