Hydrogen-powered bus rapid transit service opens in Pau, France.

Six kilometres (85 per cent) of the route is run in dedicated lanes.

Discussion continues about the use of hydrogen-power for trains and trams, with four Alstom Corradia iLint trains in service in Germany on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line in Lower Saxony and a further 27 units on order by the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund for use in the Frankfurt area. Many more transport authorities are discussing the use of hydrogen to power both trains and trams as part of their ‘zero carbon’ initiatives.

Meantime, the bus lobby has stolen a march on its rail rivals as Keolis has launched a hydrogen-powered bus rapid transit (BRT) service in the French city of Pau.

Eight Van Hool vehicles, each 18 metres long and capable of carrying 145 passengers with 32 seated, run the new Fébus service from François Mitterand Hospital, to the north of the city, and Pau train station in the south. Along the route, they serve the University and Pau’s main commercial and leisure (shopping, cinema and restaurant) hubs.

With 85 per cent (six kilometres) of the route being on dedicated lanes protected from other traffic, and with priority at crossroads, the end-to-end time for the new route across Pau is just 17 minutes.

The 18-metre vehicles are built by Belgian manufacturer Van Hool.

An on-board hydrogen fuel cell generates the electricity which actually drives the bus. One load of hydrogen fuel gives the vehicles a range of 240km, so they can run for a whole day between recharges. They are refuelled during the night at the station built near the Idelis bus depot in Pau.

The line’s 14 stations are equipped with real-time passenger information, free Wi-Fi connection, automatic ticket vending machines and video protection cameras.

Commissioning this fleet of eight vehicles required the construction of a hydrogen station, inaugurated on 19 September 2019, as well as a maintenance workshop adapted to using hydrogen. One hundred employees were trained in the new ‘rolling stock’, 50 for driving and 50 for maintenance and control.

As a comparison with the new Fébus vehicles’ capacity of 145 passengers, with 32 seated, in an 18-metre length, the Alstom Citadis 302 trams delivered to Nottingham in 2013-14 are 32 metres long and carry 144 standing passengers plus 58 seated for a total capacity of 202.

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