Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle tested on new track in Dudley for first time

Most of the time when we report about the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre (VLRIC) in Dudley its because another West Midlands Metro tram has gone there for repairs but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the facility was actually built for a different reason – and that is for the development of new technology in regards to Very Light Rail. This purpose has come to the forefront recently with a major milestone reached in the Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) project as the prototype vehicle has been successfully run on its test track.

The Coventry Very Light Rail project is backed by £40 million of funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS). This cash is being used to progress the research and development to deliver an integrated mass transit system which is also affordable and could be deployed in various cities across the country. Its been developed by a number of West Midlands organisations including Coventry City Council, Transport for West Midlands, WMG at the University of Warwick and the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation.

The idea behind the project is that it will enable rapid passenger tram systems to be installed faster and at a much lower cost than traditional light rail systems. It features a battery powered vehicle and a revolutionary track system. The innovative track is thinner than standard track and because of this can be laid just 30cm deep into the road surface, reducing the need to divert for all utility diversions (often a cause of delays and increased costs).

A test track using this revolutionary track has been installed at the VLRIC which includes a tight curve and a 250 metre vertical hump; both of these are significant challenges for traditional slab track constructions and are one reason why tram systems take so long to build and are expensive. As if to prove this point its been revealed that Galliford Try only took a matter of weeks to lay this test track.

Instrumentation has also been installed to allow vibration, sound and stresses produced by the vehicle to be monitored and to demonstrate how the track form in conjunction with the novel features of the CVLR vehicle reduces vibration and sound compared to normal tram systems.

The development work taking place at the VLRIC is leading up to a real-world demonstration of VLR on the streets of Coventry City Centre.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA (who also help to fund the VLRIC), said: “By investing in – and supporting the development of – Very Light Rail in Coventry and Dudley, we’re placing our region right at the forefront of what is a tremendously innovative technology. It’s yet another wonderful example of the industry and ingenuity for which the West Midlands is deservedly known. I look forward to seeing this technology progress from the workshop to real world application in the months and years ahead. 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.”

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, was also present for the first tests: “It was fantastic to see the vehicle running on its track for the very first time. 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.

“This test will also show that our vehicle is able to run on tight corners and up and down hills – it’s this that will enable it to run in smaller and medium sized cities. But there is no reason a traditional tram couldn’t run on it too – making delivery of trams more affordable.

“Coventry Very Light Rail is pioneering – with the potential to create new jobs and tackle climate change by providing people with a zero-emission mode of travel. This is Coventry doing what it does best. We led the industrial revolution here in Coventry and now, with fantastic projects like this, we are leading the green industrial revolution too.”

This entry was posted in Very Light Rail. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle tested on new track in Dudley for first time

  1. Andy says:

    Hmmm… This seems a bit flawed to me. For a start traditional trams can run on very lightweight track. Go back to the first generation tram era and there were a multitude of track weights etc and different foundation types. In more modern times the Sheffield Supertram employed a system where a relatively shallow trench was cut into the existing road surface, the trench was then filled with concrete but two grooves were left where rails were later placed and held in position with a resin fill. They could have left some of the underground services in place in Sheffield 30 years ago, but they didn’t because they had the intelligence to know that they might need access to those services at some point and building any kind of tram track over them wasn’t a particularly good idea.

    In one of the videos on the new Coventry test track a local council member shows off the turning circle and says no other rail vehicle can make such a tight radius turn. Well I’d dispute that as being unique too. Birmingham’s first generation trams were 4 wheelers on a narrow gauge, which could almost certainly have matched or even exceeded what the new vehicles can do. They were also double deckers, so could carry far more people in a given vehicle footprint on the road.

    Like the Trampower vehicle, I don’t think a fleet of there rail-bound battery buses will be bothering us any time soon.

  2. lazzer says:

    The quote I find most interesting is” there is no reason a traditional tram couldn’t run on it too- making delivery of trams more affordable.” Great news if correct( I presume they have tested a traditional tram on it?”).?

  3. Nigel Pennick says:

    How can a driverless vehicle create new jobs? Driverlessness was invented to employ fewer people and prevent disruption of service by striking drivers, because there aren’t any. Then again, ironically the driverless Docklands Light Railway isn’t running today because of a strike by its workers. This vehicle is so small it loses any advantage over a bigger electric bus, anyway. Only large articulated trams have ever succeeded in this country (except in the special case of Blackpool promenade) since buses replaced first-generation tramways whose vehicles were more-or-less the same capacity as buses.

  4. Richard says:

    Unfortunately we only have short term planning in this country and the next group of people in power will probably scrap it!
    We will never find out if it is a viable solution.

  5. daveid76 says:

    The guy almost forgot to say “world-beating” but he shoehorned it in as instructed.

  6. David says:

    I visited the site in April 2022 with the LRTA. I was expecting to ride on the vehicle on that day but it hadn’t arrived on site. I wonder why it has taken so long for it to be operational.

Comments are closed.