The city of Coventry is seeking to roll out Very Light Rail technology as part of a mass transit system it hopes could open from 2025.
The aim of the technology is to deliver mass transit at a lower cost than for a conventional tram network, making such a system affordable for the city council. WMG at the University of Warwick is building a demonstrator battery-powered vehicle, due to be tested in February at Dudley in the West Midlands, and WMG is also developing a new lower-cost trackform design to be used on the Coventry system.
A 7km route from Coventry’s railway station to the city centre and hospital is planned first, with the aim of construction starting in 2024; this could subsequently be extended to Anstey Park, a distance of a further 3km. A wider network could then follow, serving key locations such as the Jaguar Land Rover site, the University of Warwick and ultimately HS2’s Interchange station in Solihull. The battery-powered vehicles would be charged at each end of the route, with the aim of moving to autonomous operation in future.
Development of VLR technology will be aided by the establishment of an innovation centre at Dudley, planned for completion in the first quarter of 2022 and the location for the test track. A second VLR demonstrator vehicle for heavy rail branch lines is also being built, under the Revolution VLR banner; this consortium is led by Transport Design International with partners including WMG, RSSB and Eversholt Rail.
For more details about the VLR project see the February 2021 issue of Modern Railways.