Plans to build the first Very Light Rail system in the UK has reached a major milestone as the vehicle has been successfully tested on innovative track that was laid in weeks. The Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) project has successfully run one of its vehicles on test track at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley.

The track being researched for the project is thinner than the track used in existing light rail or tram systems and as a result can be laid just 300mm deep into the road surface. This reduces the need to divert all utilities which can add significant cost and time delays to light rail projects.

As part of the testing process, the track slab was designed by Ingerop/Rendel in conjunction with WMG and was laid by Galliford Try in a matter of weeks. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) believes this proves the simplicity of the design of the track which will ultimately lead to much lower construction costs and reduced construction time.

The 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, contributing to higher construction costs.

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

Coventry will be the first city in the UK to get the innovative, affordable battery-powered rail after the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) agreed a £72M investment in the project through its £1.05bn of funds from the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements. This will fund a demonstrator for the VLR; a 2km line between Coventry railway station and Pool Meadow bus station in the city centre.

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

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