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Plans for very light rail given a boost

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Plans for the world’s first very light rail innovation centre in Dudley have been given a boost as the first agreement to test vehicle prototypes on its track has been announced.

Coventry City Council has confirmed its intention to use the test track in Dudley, news which comes as Dudley Council’s cabinet is expected to approve funding to allow development works to continue at pace.

Councillor Patrick Harley

As part of its ambition to develop a very light rail travel solution for the city in partnership with Warwick Manufacturing Group, Coventry will use the test track in Dudley to carry out research and develop vehicle prototypes.  The city council will be seeking funding for a potential extension to the track in Dudley. 

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said:

This is fantastic news for Dudley. Very light rail innovation is at the heart of our regeneration plans and we see it as a real game changer in the development of travel solutions worldwide.
The first phase of this £25 million project will deliver the test track and innovation main building. The test track isn’t even built yet and we’re already attracting interest from other authorities. It’s great to have Coventry City Council on board with a commitment to use our test track as part of their research and development of vehicle prototypes for the city.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle cabinet member for jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council, said:

Our ambition is to create a state-of-the-art, lightweight, battery-operated vehicle which will ultimately be capable of operating without a driver. It’s a unique and innovative project and I’m delighted that we will be working so closely with Dudley and testing our prototype at their innovation centre.”

It plans to be the first in the world to install a permanent tracked route and unveil a vehicle prototype during 2021 when it becomes the UK City of Culture.

Notes to editors - about the Dudley project

  • When built, the new very light rail innovation centre in Dudley will include meeting rooms, laboratories, teaching facilities, exhibition and conference space, a large engineering workshop and 2km test track which will include test platforms
  • Research at the centre will investigate ways to reduce the weight and cost of railcars and track, enabling the creation of lower-cost connections between suburban and rural areas and providing a cheaper alternative to heavy rail and traditional ‘Metro’ urban transport systems

Notes to editors - about the Coventry project

Coventry City Council has appointed an award-winning transport specialist, Transport Design International, to work with WMG to design and construct a very light rail vehicle which will be part of the city’s new transport solution

The Coventry project is funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal

CWLEP is contributing £2.46million to the delivery of the prototype vehicle

A total of £12.2 million has been secured by Coventry City Council from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Devolution Deal funding to undertake the research and development required to prove the VLR concept

It is being managed by researchers from WMG at the University of Warwick in collaboration between Coventry City Council and Transport for West Midlands

Picture caption

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council

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