A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed to convert Italy’s historic Apennine railway, which runs through mountainous areas depopulated by earthquakes, into one powered by green hydrogen.
Signatories are US construction giant Aecom, Spanish utility firm Iberdrola, Italian sustainable developer Ancitel Energia e Ambiente, and Italian hydrogen company Cinque International.
Funded by the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, the project aims to replace ageing diesel locomotives with hydrogen-powered ones, which Iberdrola says will be “drastically less expensive” than electrifying the line.
The goal is to help rejuvenate depopulated mountainous areas hit by deindustrialisation and earthquakes in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
The line runs from Sansepolcro in the northern Arezzo province to Sulmona, L’Aquila province, in central Italy, linking Perugia, Terni, Tuscany and Umbría.
The MoU also includes a technical evaluation to convert another line, the Two Seas Railway, to run on green hydrogen. It links Fiumincino and Rome airports with San Benedetto del Tronto via Rieti, Amatrice and Ascoli Piceno.
Lorenzo Costantini, Iberdrola’s Italy manager, said the project was intended to have “a significant economic and social impact, supporting areas affected by seismic events in recent years”.
Preliminary work on the Apennine railway included a 2019 review by Italy’s Hydrogen Bureau, a 2020 viability study, and community consultations in December 2020. It was selected by the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance in July 2021.
Image courtesy of Iberdrola