Rolls-Royce and Porterbrook agreement will drive rail decarbonisation

Posted on February 14, 2022

Images [1 Files, 2 MB]

Rolls-Royce is teaming up with UK rail rolling stock owner and asset manager Porterbrook, to identify and develop technological innovations to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality across the rail network. The two companies, who have signed a memorandum of understanding, will investigate the potential for the use of synthetic and net zero fuels, including hydrogen, both in fuel cells and internal combustion engines. Building on their recent success of jointly introducing hybrid battery-diesel railcars into passenger service, the two companies will also explore the potential for advanced hybridisation.  

The relationship also includes considering the role of the wider rail ecosystem in decarbonisation, including fuel chain supply, infrastructure and operational models that can aid innovation and the transition to net zero.

The UK’s railway accounts for approximately 1% of all domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions* and the Government’s ambition is to remove all diesel-only trains – both passenger and freight – from the network by 2040 and achieve a net zero rail network by 2050. The UK Government has identified a number of different routes to this target including alternative forms of power such as hydrogen, fuel cells, batteries, hybrid-electric and sustainable fuels.

Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “We have extensive experience of rail technology and are able to draw upon expertise from across our business in new net zero and zero emissions technologies for safety critical applications. We are committed to helping our customers make the transition to net zero by enabling them to use our current and future products in a way that is compatible with emissions reduction, and this relationship with Porterbrook will help us further understand the options for decarbonising rail transport. For us, playing a leading role in enabling the energy transition is both a societal imperative and a very significant commercial opportunity.”

Mary Grant, CEO, Porterbrook, said: “We have been at the forefront of developing alternative traction systems for rolling stock over recent years, through our innovations and long-term asset management approach. Our partnership with Rolls-Royce will mean that we continue to lead the UK’s rail sector in sustainable solutions, by leveraging expertise across industries on the pathway to net zero.”

Rolls-Royce, through its Power Systems business, has decades of experience in providing drive solutions for rail with its mtu-branded engines in service across five continents. The company has been developing new sustainable solutions including the hybrid-electric mtu Hybrid PowerPack for rail use. This technology recently entered commercial service in the UK with Chiltern Railways on HybridFLEX trains, supplied by Porterbrook, which reduce CO2 emissions by up to 25%. Power Systems is already developing a range of engines for power generation which can run on hydrogen; and is working on fuel cells – that produce electricity – to be used as reliable power supply in ships and heavy-duty off-highway vehicles. Last year, Power Systems committed to release new generations of its most popular diesel engines for use with sustainable fuels by 2023, this includes mtu Series 4000 engines which are today used in locomotives operating in conditions as varied as Siberia and the Australian outback. From next year it plans to have conversion kits available which enable mtu Series 4000 engines to run on 100% hydrogen.

Porterbrook owns almost a quarter of the national passenger rail fleet and currently has around 4,000 vehicles on lease or on order. The business has an established reputation for delivering new technologies, such as battery, hybrid and hydrogen powered trains. Alongside the HybridFLEX and other hybrid trains in commercial service, the company has developed HydroFLEX, the first hydrogen-powered train to run on the UK’s mainline network. It can operate under electric, battery and hydrogen power, making it the world’s first ‘tri-mode’ train. Porterbrook was recently named Transport Sector Leader in the annual Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) assessment, where real estate and infrastructure organisations across the world are compared based on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.  

*2019 figures. UK Department for Transport: Decarbonising Transport, 2021

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

  1. Rolls-Royce pioneers the power that matters to connect, power and protect society. We have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations by 2030 (excluding product testing) and joined the UN Race to Zero campaign in 2020, affirming our ambition to play a fundamental role in enabling the sectors in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
  2. Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces and navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.
  3. Annual underlying revenue was £11.76 billion in 2020 and we invested £1.25 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 28 University Technology Centres, which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.  
  4. Rolls-Royce Holdings plc is publicly traded company (LSE: RR., ADR: RYCEY, LEI: 213800EC7997ZBLZJH69)

About Porterbrook

  • Porterbrook owns almost a quarter of the national passenger rail fleet and currently has around 4,000 vehicles on lease or on order. To date it has invested £3bn in new passenger and freight vehicles and is actively looking to invest a further £1bn in UK rail in the coming years.
  • Engineering excellence is central to its role as a leading railway asset owner and manager.   Porterbrook is a delivery partner, supporting improved industry performance and reliability across the network. The company’s 30 to 35-year whole life asset management approach optimises value to passengers and taxpayers and aims to minimise environmental impact.
  • In collaboration with industry partners, Porterbrook project manages the delivery of regular upgrades to its rolling stock fleets. Each year the company invests over £150m in its existing assets, supporting over 100 UK-based companies and supporting c.7,000 jobs.
  • The Porterbrook group of companies is wholly owned and managed by a group of supportive long-term institutional infrastructure investors, fully committed to the future of the UK rail sector including Alberta Investment Management Corporation (“AIMCo”), Allianz Capital Partners (“ACP”) on behalf of certain insurance companies of the Allianz Group, a joint venture between Dalmore and Generation Capital, and EDF Invest.

For further information, please contact:


Richard Wray
Director of External Communications & Brand, Rolls-Royce plc
Tel +44 (0) 7810 850055


James McGowan
Director of Corporate Affairs, Porterbrook
Tel +44 (0) 7932 749095

Simon Evans
Partner, Portland Communications

Richard Brooks
Consultant, Portland Communications
Tel +44 (0) 7740 858477  


Rolf Behrens Spokesman Trade Media Mobile Power Solutions
+49 7541 90 3461