THE team who built the world’s fastest steam-powered car are planning to use the same technology to drive trains.

Rail minister Andrew Jones visited Steamology in Lymington, which received a £350,000 grant earlier this year to develop its idea for taking carbon emissions out of train travel.

The team behind Steamology built the steam-powered car Inspiration, which was driven into the record books by Charles Burnett III when he achieved a speed of 148.308mph in 2009 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Mr Burnett died in a helicopter crash in New Mexico in January last year.

Chief engineer Christopher Lack said the team had decided to apply their ideas to the rail industry in partnership with the rolling stock manufacturer Vivarail.

“We’ve continued that development and got it to a point now where it’s actually ready to go onto a train and to power this generator for Vivarail, who we’re working in partnership with and we’ll then have that put onto the train and drive around their test track,” he said.

“We take hydrogen and oxygen and we burn them inside the chamber which then creates steam and we use that steam to drive a turbine which then powers the generator.”

The generator charges batteries on the train, although it could also be used to drive the wheels directly, he said.

He said it was Steamology’s founder who Jerry Bliss came up with the method for producing steam using hydrogen and oxygen rather than conventional boilers.

Steamology applied for share of the £4.5million the government offered under its First of a Kind competition, set up to fund innovative projects that could help deliver low-carbon train travel.

Minister Andrew Jones saw the technology at the team’s base at Newtown Park Farm Estate in Lymington.

He told the Daily Echo: “This is a really interesting business.

“What we’re trying to do is decarbonise the rail industry and that’s going to require all sorts of things. Part of that is going to be the electrification of the network and part of it will be the creation of new technologies which will come into service over time.

“We’ve set the ambition of decarbonising so we’ll have no diesel-only trains on our network by 2040. So we’re developing technologies and that includes grant funding into start-up businesses developing cutting-edge technology.”

He added: “We’ve got 36 per cent of our network electrified now – that’s with overhead cable or third rail – and the majority of the big mainline routes are electrified. This is extending the capacity to have carbon-free running onto some of the branch lines where electrification is hugely disruptive and very, very expensive.

“In the past, that was the only option available. Now we’re seeing technology coming from the track onto the train, with really cutting edge ideas such as we’ve seen today.”

He added: “This is a really important part of our future, how we decarbonise our transport industry, and the UK has a good record of cutting edge technologies which we then develop and export.”