Alpha Trains, owned by Dutch pension funds, Arcus Infrastructure Partners and Swiss Life Asset Managers, is to provide 31 electric trains to German rail operator Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB) through a 24-year lease agreement.

Europe’s largest independent train leasing company, which includes Dutch pension funds ABP and PFZW among its shareholders, will enable NEB to replace diesel engines for the East Brandenburg concession between Berlin and the Polish border.

From 2024, NEB will be able to start using Siemens Mireo battery electric trains, which are expected to save 4.4 million litres of diesel annually, leading to a CO2 reduction of 11,000 tonnes per year.

Through the latest battery technology, the trains draw the electricity needed to charge their lithium-ion batteries from the overhead lines along the electrified sections of the track and from three newly created charging points in outer districts of the routes.

The power drawn from the electrified lines and the charging stations will be generated entirely from renewable sources and the trains will run on a carbon-neutral basis. Energy from braking will also captured and re-used, and on parts of the route where there are no overhead lines the trains will switch to batteries.

APG, on behalf of ABP, owns half of Alpha Trains. PGGM Infrastructure Fund, which includes PFZW, has a significant minority interest.

The Dutch investors acquired direct stakes in the company from AMP Capital and Public Sector Pension Investment Board in January last year. Two months later, APG sold an indirect stake through the Arcus European Infrastructure Fund to Dutch pension fund PGB, US private equity firm HarbourVest and a third unnamed investor

Viktor Filipan, senior portfolio manager at APG, said: “When APG acquired Alpha Trains, we set the goal to achieve strong growth with the company as promoting sustainable transport is a focal point for APG and its pension fund clients.

“Winning this tender for battery electric trains contributes significantly to this goal and also provides appropriate returns over a long period.

“In addition to further projects with battery trains, we also hope to add hydrogen trains and locomotives to the Alpha Trains fleet in the coming years. Due to the energy transition and continuous liberalisation of rail transport in Europe, we see on an increasing basis that Alpha Trains’ offering is the best solution for customers, passengers and the climate.”

Erik van de Brake, head of infrastructure at PGGM, said: “This is a great example to enable long-term pension capital to support the growing demand for sustainable ways of transport in Europe. It also fits very well in PGGM’s ambition to invest in climate solutions that contribute to a fossil free world in the long run.

“Alpha Trains demonstrates a strong focus on ESG and will continue to be one of the key players in the European rolling stock market to promote and contribute to the concept of green mobility.

“We expect more to come, as the European Commission presented this month its ambitious action plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services as part of the EU Fit for 55 package aiming for a net-zero European economy in 2050.”