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Light Rail News Roundup 15th October 2021 Friday October 15, 2021

In light rail news this week – radio upgrade in Blackpool, Stourbridge Shuttle release VLR video, consultation on Manchester ‘Bee Network’, young people become NET ‘Trambassadors’, finishing touches to Birmingham Westside extension and major step forward for Coventry VLR scheme.

A new report highlighting how Britain’s light rail systems are instrumental in supporting economic growth, promoting social inclusion, and reducing carbon emissions has been welcomed by UKTram.

Produced by consultants Steer Group on behalf of the Urban Transport Group, it also argues that protecting light rail services and maintaining the urban connectivity they provide – with further Government support if necessary – is key to ensuring towns and cities can recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also calls for a stable policy and funding environment to boost the expansion of light rail into more towns and cities while encouraging the growth of existing networks.

James Hammett, Managing Director of UKTram, commented: “This powerful report adds further weight to arguments in favour of long-term support and investment and you can read the full story here.

In other light rail news:

Blackpool Transport

A digital radio upgrade will help to make Blackpool’s bus and tram operations one of the most modern in the UK to meet demand from local users and tourists in the resort.

The radio upgrade will see the transport operator move away from conventional analogue radio technology to a modern and sophisticated digital system.

The works will include a new independent and resilient wide-area voice and data backhaul infrastructure meaning continuity of operations even in the event of power cuts or cellular outages. Read the full story by clicking here.

Pre Metro

The operator of the Stourbridge Shuttle has unveiled a new YouTube video, ‘What is VLR?’: an informative exploration into what defines Very Light Rail, and how it can be utilised effectively.

The UK’s only VLR operators use the video to communicate the values of using ultra light rail vehicles to provide short, frequent passenger services that can connect communities with the wider rail network.

Its release comes as bids are being submitted to the DfT’s ‘Restoring your Railway’ scheme and can be accessed here.

Manchester Metrolink

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has launched a public conversation on the city-region’s ambitious vision to level up and build a fully integrated transport system.

The Bee Network will be a London-style transport system which will join together buses, trams, cycling, and walking by 2024, with rail incorporated by 2030.

Accessible, affordable and easy to use, with a daily fare cap and single multi-modal ticket, the Bee Network will support seamless end-to-end journeys, transforming how people travel in Greater Manchester.

GM leaders want people to help bring their transport vision to life based on what’s important to them, and are encouraging those who live and work in the city-region to join the Destination: Bee Network Conversation, launching this week and you can read more here.


Young pupils from Nottingham schools will become the city’s first ‘Trambassadors’, acting as an important community link for NET and providing learning opportunities for children.

The scheme is being piloted at Alderman Pounder Infant and Nursery School in Chilwell before being rolled out to more primary and secondary schools in the region over the coming year.

The first 2 Trambassadors, Alfie Daniels and Ariadne Van Krimpen, will sit on the school’s ‘Children’s Government’ and represent the pupils from Alderman Pounder Infant and Nursery School on the scheme and you can read the full story here.

Tyne & Wear Metro

Ten new apprentices have started their careers with Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro.

The organisation has taken on the new trainees following an extensive recruitment campaign earlier this year and the latest recruits, aged from 16-20, will be training in a variety of roles, including track and signalling engineers, project management, bus services and contracts and commercial services.

Some will learn the skills needed to look after the 77km network of tracks and other key pieces of infrastructure, while others will be in key roles behind the scenes and you can find the full story here.

West Midlands Metro

West Midlands Metro has been put in the spotlight at a high-profile awards event, with both the operator and team behind the network’s expansion receiving a series of prestigious accolades.

While Metro operator, Midland Metro Limited (MML), was ‘Highly Commended’ in the hotly contested ‘Most Improved System’ category at the Global Light Rail Awards, two members of the team were also recognised at the recent industry event in London.

Crew Supervisor Dan Jordan was highly commended in the Employee of the Year category for his work keeping colleagues safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Andrew Laville received a similar accolade as a ‘Rising Star’ of the light rail sector after successfully leading the implementation of a complex asset maintenance management project. You can read the full story here.

Extension Projects

Ahead of testing and commissioning beginning, Midland Metro Alliance is adding the finishing touches to the second phase of the Birmingham Westside Metro extension to Edgbaston.

Throughout the summer, overhead wires, which will provide power for trams in some areas of the route, including Broad Street, have been installed and a new purpose-built substation building is being constructed within the footprint of Five Ways island.

Next week, a brand-new electrical substation unit will be lowered in place at Five Ways by crane. Click here for more on developments.

Proposed new systems

Coventry Very Light Rail (VLR) took a major step forward recently as Coventry City Council and WMG, University of Warwick showcased a breakthrough new track design which aims to drive down the costs associated with the installation of urban light rail.

Bringing together stakeholders from Coventry and across the West Midlands, engineers from WMG, University of Warwick provided further details on the Coventry VLR track form, which has been designed in partnership with Ingerop and its UK subsidiary Rendel.

The track form has been developed in parallel to a zero-emission, battery-powered lightweight shuttle vehicle developed in partnership with TDI, which will become autonomous, working like the London Underground system, where there is no timetable and passengers can hop on and off. You can read the full story here.


Seaton Tramway has added an EXTRA 1200 seats to this year’s THE POLAR EXPRESS™ attraction.

The popular trips are set to take place on selected dates through November and December, including Christmas Eve.

Families can take a once in a lifetime trip on a magical tram ride to Santa’s home at the North Pole in one of the specially decorated single deck tramcars and you can find out more here.

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