Coventry Very Light Rail project takes a step forward

The Coventry Very Light Rail project has taken a major step forward with a real-world demo site launched for its light rail track system. The site is based at WMG, University of Warwick and will show what is to come in Coventry when the first stage of the route opens in the future.

Using advanced material and manufacturing processes, researchers and engineers and WMG have worked alongside track-design experts at Ingerop to create, design and build the demo site including the unique track system, which is not only more affordable to install but also enables rapid installation – minimising disruption to local businesses and properties.

The track form, which is designed to sit within the top 30cm of existing highway surfaces, is easy to install and can be removed rapidly. This will significantly reduce clashes with utilities and potentially saving millions of pounds otherwise spent on excavation and moving gas, electrical and telecommunication systems when installing more traditional track forms. Installation is costed at approximately £10m per km rather than the traditional track installation which is £25m per km.

The new track has been developed alongside a zero-emission, battery-powered lightweight shuttle vehicle created in partnership with TDi. The vision of Coventry Very Light Rail is that as technology matures it will become autonomous and work similarly to the London Underground system where the service is frequent and passengers can hop on and off. The vehicle will be lightweight and with no overhead power supply along the route there will be a further reduction in costs.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change at Coventry City Council, said: “This new track test site is a key part of our work to demonstrate the viability of the breakthrough technology in this track. In a world first, we’re aiming to keep pipes and cables in the ground, lowering installation costs and making Coventry Very Light Rail possible in our city and across the country. Coventry Very Light Rail will form the backbone of our future transport network, but we’re investing in many projects to make our city’s transport cleaner, greener and more convenient for residents. Coventry Very Light Rail will fit seamlessly with our plans to be the UK’s first all-electric bus city and our plans to continue to provide more on-street electric charge points than anywhere outside London.”

Coventry City Council are also planning to install some of the track at Whitley Depot waste facility to allow it to be tested with heavy goods vehicles as well as at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley where testing of the vehicle is currently taking place.

Dr Christopher Micallef, Principal Engineering at WMG, University of Warwick, said: “The University of Warwick urban track demonstration site provides an ideal scenario to prove-out the installation methods of the novel track system. The site will enable various competing sub-systems such as the encapsulation and pavement systems to be trialled to further explore the advantages and challenges. The site includes features such as water drainage gullies, buried utilities and a sewage access chamber to ensure that solutions to these real-world complexities can be explored. After the first phase, which is all about the track installation process, the site will be further utilised to allow various scenarios to be simulated and enable active engagement with key stakeholders such as utility companies, materials and subsystems supply chain and city transport planners. Eventually it could provide a facility to train the next generation of track installation teams.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “This very light rail project is a fantastic demonstration of collaboration across our region – whether it’s the development at Dudley, this new test track at Warwick University or soon enough the first route in Coventry city centre. The West Midlands Combined Authority is investing £71.5m into very light rail. Designing and building a light rail service rapidly and at a fraction of the cost of regular Metro lines has the potential to transform our public transport network. It is also a great example of cutting edge innovation that can help us to meet our #WM2041 net zero commitment and tackle the climate emergency. Our region is ideally placed to become the home of the green industrial revolution.”

The Coventry Very Light Rail project is being led by Coventry City Council and has received funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Coventry City Council.

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3 Responses to Coventry Very Light Rail project takes a step forward

  1. Pablo says:

    Hopefully these trams for Coventry can be tested on midland metro track.

    If the trams for Coventry work on midland metro then hopefully they can get a test tram made to carry 150 people.

  2. Andy says:

    The names have changed, but isn’t this the same project that John Parry has been doing for the last 30 years or so? I’ve travelled on (and briefly driven) a Parry People Mover during their test operation in Bristol a few years ago and I have to say I was initially sceptical about them. However the unusual technology involved does actually work quite well and the two units in use on the Stourbridge branch have proved to be a success.

    My big concern though is the idea of leaving services under the track. What will happen when the owners of the pipework and cables want to do work on them?

    Remember Sheffield’s Supertram also used a modern track laying system, where a continuous concrete pad with two troughs was laid in a relatively shallow trench cut into the road surface. rail was the dripped into the slots and held in place with resin. That system has not lasted as well as first expected and it’s interesting to note that more recent projects, notably Blackpool, have reverted to a traditional concrete foundation with rails laid on top and then filled in.

    At least CAF aren’t laying track (thankfully!)

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