Coventry’s Very Light Rail track unveiled

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Coventry’s Very Light Rail (VLR) took a step forward as Coventry City Council and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), part of the University of Warwick, showcased a new track design which aims to drive down the costs associated with the installation of urban light rail.

Engineers from WMG provided further details on the Coventry VLR track form, which has been designed in partnership with Ingerop and its UK subsidiary Rendel, to stakeholders from Coventry and across the West Midlands.

At the University of Warwick’s ‘The Slate’ conference centre, researchers from WMG spoke about the engineering challenges that had been overcome in the design of the track form.

WMG and Ingerop have created, designed and built the novel track form, designed to sit 30cm inside the road surface. The partnership explained this makes it easy to install and remove, reducing the impact on utilities and potentially saving millions of pounds lost to excavation and moving gas, electrical and telecommunication systems.

The new track is expected to cost £10m per km compared to current tram tracks, which can cost upwards of £25m per km, and up to £100m per km in city centre locations.

Darren Hughes, associate professor at WMG, University of Warwick, said: “The main driver of the Coventry VLR project was to make light rail as affordable and environmentally friendly as possible, and the track is the major part of this.

“Working with Ingerop we have successfully achieved this goal, making a unique track form using advanced materials and manufacturing processes which is not only affordable but also allows rapid installation, minimising disruption to local properties and businesses.  The progress made is an excellent example of a city council, a university and an industry partner working together to solve a public transportation challenge.”

Margot James, Stuart Croft and Jim O’Boyle with a model of the new VLR track

The track form has been developed in parallel with a zero-emission, battery-powered lightweight shuttle vehicle. The vehicle has been created in partnership with TDI, and will become autonomous working like the London Underground system, where there is no timetable and passengers can hop on and off.

The vehicle is designed to be lightweight, and there will be no overhead power supply which the team said can be both costly and can have a negative impact to the city-scape.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, added: “It’s incredible to see this one-of-a-kind, Coventry-led project move even closer to completion. Coventry Very Light Rail has the potential to provide Coventry, and towns and cities across the UK, with an affordable, high-quality transport mode using clean, green energy and it further cements our ambition to lead the green industrial revolution. Originated, designed and developed right here in Coventry it also has the potential to support new jobs in the future.

“This new track form, the first of its kind, is a critical part of the project and we would not be here today without the help of our incredible partners, some of the best engineering talent anywhere in the world, based right here in Coventry. I want to congratulate WMG and Ingerop on their success so far and I look forward to seeing the first tracks laid on our city’s streets.”

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