Coventry City Council has successfully tested a Very Light Rail (VLR) vehicle on a unique track system at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) in Dudley.
The battery-powered VLR vehicle operates on thinner tracks that are laid shallower into road surfaces – just 30 cm deep – than conventional rail systems.
The design of the VLR track also enable rapid installation by reducing the need to divert underground pipes and cables during construction – a consequence that can add significant cost and time delays to light rail projects.
The VLR track is being developed in collaboration with Transport for West Midlands, WMG at the University of Warwick and the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation, which operates the VLRNIC.
Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, Jim O’Boyle, said: “This track is crucial to our vision and this successful test is a big milestone for the project.
“The track is unique; it’s specifically designed to be installed more quickly and more easily than the tracks used by other light rail systems.”
The Coventry VLR project is backed by funds acquired through City Region Sustainable Settlements (CRSTS), a £5.7bn levelling-up programme intended to modernise inter-city transport systems.
The West Midlands Combined Authority was awarded £1.05bn through CRSTS, from which the Coventry VLR project secured £40m to progress the research and development of affordable integrated mass transit systems.
The VLRNIC, which is also partly funded through CRSTS, facilitated the creation of a test track designed by Ingerop/Rendel in conjunction with WMG.
The test track includes a tight curve and a 250m vertical hump. Both obstacles, which usually present significant challenges for conventional slab track construction, were laid in a matter of weeks due to the simplicity and shallow depth of the track design.
Track construction included vibration instrumentation able to monitor sound and stresses aimed to demonstrate how the VLR vehicle reduces vibration and sound compared to standard tram systems.
Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, Andy Street, said: “As VLR picks up pace, we’ll be able to further reduce traffic congestion and improve our air quality – offering a convenient and sustainable transport option for local people to enjoy.”
Coventry City Council hopes the track’s simplicity will lead to much lower construction costs and reduced construction time.
The council also plans to demonstrate the VLR vehicle in Coventry city centre in the future.
Innovations and achievements in public transport will be celebrated at the second annual CiTTi Awards on 21 November 2023 at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London. Visit www.cittiawards.co.uk to learn more about this unmissable event for the UK’s transportation sector – and to book your table today!