Funding to help kick-start very light rail revolution in the West Midlands

The West Midlands Combined Authority have agreed to release the first instalment of what could eventually amount to £72 million worth of funding towards the Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) system. Much of the funding will go towards building a real world demonstration track in Coventry City Centre and to help develop a business case for a fully operational system.

Very Light Rail technology is said to be faster and cheaper to build than traditional tram and light rail systems and it is hoped that its development will enable more towns and cities in the UK to enjoy the benefits that such a system would bring. The West Midlands have been at the forefront of these development with Warwick University having teamed up with Coventry City Council. Meanwhile, the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre has been built and opened in Dudley – where testing of VLR vehicles is underway.

Plans for the Coventry system would see lightweight, battery powered electric vehicles running without overhead wires and with innovative track in use this should require less extensive foundation works, making installation both quicker and less expensive. It would still, however, deliver similar environmental benefits.

The funding will also see more investment at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre with more equipment purchased to allow it to become fully operational. Business cases will also be explored which could see further Very Light Rail lines and potential links with the West Midlands Metro network.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have agreed to release £36.8 million from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement. Before it can go to the projects though it must first be signed off by the Department for Transport.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “This funding will allow us to take Very Light Rail to the next level – from the workshop to real-world demonstration – and shows the WMCA Board’s unequivocal backing for innovation in Coventry. This technology has the potential to deliver tram systems at pace and at much lower cost – giving more people access to a modern rapid transit system as well as cleaner air and less congestion along with it. Coventry has helped pioneer VLR and will therefore – alongside our wider region – be well placed to take advantage of this growing industry and the new job opportunities it will bring in the months and years ahead. That’s why the WMCA is so pleased to support our partners on this exciting project.”

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, added: “This is a milestone investment in Coventry Very Light Rail, a project set to transform the way people in our city – and others throughout the UK and even the world – get around. By creating a new, clean and green form of transport, this investment is securing jobs in Coventry and, as in other cities which have installed light rail, will support regeneration in local areas. Of course, Coventry Very Light Rail is just one way that the council is working to improve air quality and combat climate change. We’ve installed more electric vehicle charge points than anywhere outside London, we’re set to become the UK’s first all-electric bus city by 2025, we have ambitions for a gigafactory and have committed to planting a tree for every person living in Coventry by 2032.”

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8 Responses to Funding to help kick-start very light rail revolution in the West Midlands

  1. lazzer says:

    A demonstration track in the city centre? Hmm starting to sound like the Preston Trampower project from years ago that has never progressed to even a demonstration track that was promised. £72 million yes a tidy sum indeed maybe just go for a traditional tram system it works well in other cities worldwide even very close to Coventry itself.( Brum Brum!)?

    • Pabs says:

      Surely if the rumour that if the Coventry VLR vehicle is compatible with midland metro surely test it between St Paul’s and Edgbaston so they can bring bods from Coventry to see it in action

  2. Nigel Pennick says:

    Project after project without end. Who remember’s Smiegielski’s Coventry Monorail of the 1960s? The Sheffield minitrams of the 1970s. The Parry People Mover tram schemes? Or the Cambridge Autonomous Metro, cancelled a couple of years ago after millions were wasted on consultants. Although I am a lifelong advocate of tramways, it seems to me investment in practical electric buses and busways would be better if a proper, tried-and-tested conventional tram system cannot be afforded.

  3. David says:

    Thinking about the way they were going on about it last year I thought that approval for the system was confirmed and that the first line was about to start building. You just can’t believe what you read these days.

  4. Andy says:

    For £72 million they could probably just give everyone in coventry an electric car! No digging up the streets, no wages to pay, travel when you like to where you like and (most importantly) no useless LRV designers who can’t build something that doesn’t crack in half as soon as you look at it! (I’m looking at YOU Birmingham!)

  5. David Jones says:

    No point in having a tram system if you dont have enough free parking at each end. Nottingham do that rather well methinks.

  6. Andy says:

    I can’t understand where all that money is going. A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a day with the Parry People Mover team when they were operating on Bristol docks and even got to drive a couple of trips up and down. Until then I’d always thought the project was a bit bonkers. However I have to say that once I got used to the fact it wasn’t like anything else in existance, I was actually very impressed. John Parry had managed to invent something entirely new that did the job of shifting people very efficiently at a very low cost. I could easily imagine a large fleet of people movers nipping through city streets. I don’t think it would have cost anything like £72 million either!

    • lazzer says:

      Yes I remember the Bristol docks demo line for the Parry People Mover. Must be more than a few years ago more like 20 when I had a ride on it. I think it was about 200 yards long. Read the other day Cirencester in Gloucestershire are looking for a feasibility study grant to look into a Very Light Rail line to Kemble railway station.

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