Coventry Very Light Rail scheme has bid for funding rejected

Hopes that passengers may be carried on Coventry’s Very Light Rail (VLR) scheme in 2025 seem to have been dashed after reports that the Department for Transport rejected a bid for funding. The news of the funding rejection comes following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC which confirmed a bid for £36.8 million of funding made last year was rejected as DfT officials questioned whether Coventry would be the right place for VLR.

However, despite the rejection of this cash plans for a demonstration line are still to be pressed ahead with and both current West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, and his Labour rival, Richard Parker, in the forthcoming Mayoral elections have pledged to fund the scheme through other means.

Coventry Very Light Rail had requested £36.8 million in February 2023 but DfT officials rejected this as they had concerns about the project. They did, however, confirm that they had already committed £15 million towards testing of Very Light Rail.

It would appear (perhaps sensibly) that before any further funding can be released that the concept of Very Light Rail needs to be proved and this is where the demonstrator line due to be built in Coventry City Centre later this year comes in. Its hoped that if this goes smoothly then a pot of £40 million will be released for the overall scheme – although estimated costs are currently at £189 million.

The Coventry Very Light Rail scheme would be the first of its kind in the UK and its hoped that if successful it would open up options across the country for lower cost public transport. A vehicle has already been built and been tested at the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre in Dudley but so far this is the only tangible evidence of the project progressing.

After the news broke of this rejection (although clearly officials were already well aware of the lack of funding being awarded) Andy Street said that £72 million of funding was ringfenced for Coventry VLR from the overall Transport for West Midlands budget and that as long as testing was successful there would be an operating passenger line.

Labour Mayoral candidate , Richard Parker also reiterated support for the project and that he would be keen to get the project up and running quicker than current plans are suggesting.

Of the other candidates for the election, Sunny Virk (Liberal Democrat) seems to be positive about the project and suggested the problem was with a poor relationship between the City Council and the Dft and that a strong Mayor would sort this out. Elaine Williams (Reform UK) is definitely not in favour, describing it as a vanity project and that the money could be better sent elsewhere whilst Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green) was disappointed in the lack of funding but stopped short of supporting the project.

In statements released Coventry City Council have now suggested that rather than passenger services starting in 2025 it may be 2026 before this happens. But with no demonstrator line in place yet and no definite funding it would appear to be a rather ambitious timescale.

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5 Responses to Coventry Very Light Rail scheme has bid for funding rejected

  1. Ginger Doctor says:

    It would be interesting if the could demonstrate the Coventry VLR tram in Birmingham between st chads and Grand central that way the government can see it working.

  2. Count Otto Von Dusseldorf says:

    Now what ever happened to the proposed Preston Trampower demonstration track…or Preston Trampower? Very Light Rail is a gadgetbahn idea that may appeal to some theme park owners like Alton Towers or Disney. Cough up the cash for a conventional tram system instead.

  3. Nigel Pennick says:

    Another one bites the dust.

  4. David says:

    There doesn’t seem to be much point in testing the prototype at Dudley now that the Coventry scheme does not seem to have a future.

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