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Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle tested on revolutionary track for first time Tuesday November 7, 2023

The pioneering Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) project has achieved a major milestone with successful running of the vehicle on its test track at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) in Dudley.

The battery-powered vehicle and revolutionary track system will offer cities the chance to install rapid passenger tram systems faster and at a much lower cost than traditional light rail systems.

The innovative track is thinner than the track used in existing light rail or tram systems. As a result, it can be laid just 30cm deep into the road surface, reducing the need to divert all pipes and cables, which can add significant cost and time delays to light rail projects.

The Coventry VLR project has been developed by a number of innovative West Midlands organisations including Coventry City Council, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), WMG at the University of Warwick and the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation, which runs the Dudley VLRNIC.

The project is backed with funding from the £1.05 billion City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) awarded to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) by the Department for Transport. The CVLR project has been allocated £40m from that funding to progress the research and development to deliver an affordable integrated mass transit system that could be deployed in cities across the country.

The track slab was designed by Ingerop / Rendel in conjunction with WMG and was laid by Galliford Try in a matter of weeks – proving the simplicity of the design which in turn will lead to much lower construction costs and reduced construction time.

This test track includes a tight curve and a 250m vertical hump as both of these are significant challenges for traditional slab track constructions and are one of the reasons tram systems take a long time to build and why they are so expensive.

This construction has included instrumentation so that vibration, sound and stresses produced by the vehicle can be monitored to demonstrate how the track form in conjunction with the novel features of the CVLR vehicle reduces vibration and sound compared to standard tram systems.

The VLRNIC, which will also be partly funded through CRSTS, is pivotal in supporting CVLR reach its potential. It provides a safe offline environment and engineering support for new technologies to be developed and tested robustly before they are taken to the streets for implementation.

This development work is leading up to a real-world demonstration of VLR on the streets of Coventry city centre.