A hydrogen-powered train could be operating in the UK as soon as 2019, according to the rail safety body RSSB.
The RSSB was responding to a speech given by rail minister Jo Johnson, who said he wants to see diesel trains phased out by 2040.
During a speech at the British Museum today, Jo Johnson said: “I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.
“If that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that.”
The government is advocating bi-mode, battery and hydrogen technologies as alternatives to diesel.
Mark Phillips, chief executive of RSSB, said: “We welcome the Minister’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions from the railways. RSSB is leading the way through our research and innovation programmes, and by facilitating the Sustainable Rail Programme.
“In 2015, we co-funded a £7 million pilot of a battery-powered train with industry partners, and we are working with Alstom to pilot a hydrogen powered train in late 2019 or early 2020.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to realise the vision of a cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable railway.”