The test track for the Very Light Rail project in Dudley has been completed in a major milestone for the programme, with the first of Coventry VLR prototype vehicles due to be tested later in 2021. The test track is part of the National Innovation Centre which is being supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority as part of their plan to make the region net zero carbon zero in the next 20 years.
The test track runs from the bottom of Castle Hill to Cinder Bank Island and will be used to test Very Light Rail vehicles which it is hoped will cut costs in introducing rail based public transport. Coventry is due to have a trial line running in the city with this possibly included autonomous vehicles. The first of the Coventry VLR vehicles is currently being constructed and is due to be finished by the end of the year allowing it to be tested in Dudley.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, was recently given a tour of the complex: “This project puts the West Midlands on the cutting edge of transport innovation and development and shows how collaborative working is delivering for our region. That these vehicles are going to be tested in Dudley to then be used in Coventry is testament to how we’ve managed to pull the West Midlands together as one in recent years, and I am delighted the WMCA has been able to play its part to help make this happen. Not only is there clear economic benefits to this scheme, but there’s major environmental ones as well. VLR is another modern public transport alternative, which means it can help us ease congestion on our roads and bring about cleaner air as we look to tackle the climate emergency and work towards our #WM2041 plan to become a net zero carbon region over the next 20 years.”
The test track will run for 2.2km and is alongside the Innovation Centre which is currently being developed by the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation. The official blurb on what will happen at the Centre says: “The centre aims to develop a new Very Light Rail (VLR) industry, creating demand and supply of VLR solutions, with manufacturing centred in the Black Country. VLR offers a new, lower-cost, public transport solution that is set to transform the rail industry, providing integrated VLR systems as an alternative to heavy rail and traditional Metro transport.”
Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, commented: “This project continues to move forward at pace, despite the national restrictions, which is excellent news. The new test track is a significant part of this development and one step closer to making Dudley a global leader in rail innovation.”