The Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) has hosted a successful demonstration of the pioneering Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) technology at its unique Rail Development and Test Site in Dudley in the West Midlands.

The CVLR project has achieved a major milestone as the vehicle is now able to be tested on its own track at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation.

During the testing Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, visited the centre to view progress, alongside MPs Penny Mordaunt and Nicola Richards and Cllrs Patrick Harley and Simon Phipps from Dudley Council.

The CVLR project has been developed by Coventry City Council, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), WMG at the University of Warwick and BCIMO, who operate the VLRNIC.

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 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.

BCIMO’s Rail Development and Test Site includes a unique 15m radius Rail Test Loop and a 250m vertical hump as both of these are significant challenges for traditional slab track constructions and are one of the reasons traditional tram systems take a long time to build and why they are so expensive.

The VLRNIC, which will also be partly funded through CRSTS, is pivotal in supporting CVLR to 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 CVLR on the streets of Coventry city centre.

Following the visit Andy Street said:

“By investing in – and supporting the development of – Very Light Rail in Coventry and Dudley, we’re placing our region right at the forefront of what is a tremendously innovative technology.

“It’s yet another wonderful example of the industry and ingenuity for which the West Midlands is deservedly known. I look forward to seeing this technology progress from the workshop to real world application in the months and years ahead.

“As VLR picks up pace, we’ll be able to further reduce traffic congestion and improve our air quality – offering a convenient and sustainable transport option for local people to enjoy.”

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, who recently had the opportunity to drive the CVLR vehicle and witness its first journey on the new track, said

 “It was fantastic to see the vehicle running on its track for the very first time. This track is crucial to our vision and this successful test is a big milestone for the project.

“The track is unique; it’s specifically designed to be installed more quickly and more easily than the tracks used by other light rail systems. 

“This test will also show that our vehicle is able to run on tight corners and up and down hills – it’s this that will enable it to run in smaller and medium sized cities. But there is no reason a traditional tram couldn’t run on it too – making delivery of trams more affordable.”

Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council said: 

“This is an important milestone on this site and I am delighted to see the first tests taking place. This is a very important aspect of our wider £1 billion regeneration story that is really gathering speed.”

Neil Fulton, Chief Executive of BCIMO said: 

“This project is a great example of BCIMO’s ability to support the development of innovative technologies in a controlled environment using our unique, rail test facilities – and it highlights the huge benefits of effective collaboration.”

To find out more about the Coventry Very Light Rail project, please visit www.coventry.gov.uk/vlr

To find out more about BCIMO and the VLRNIC, please visit www.bcimo.co.uk or get in touch via www.bcimo.co.uk/contact/contactus

BCIMO is a not-for-profit Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) and operator of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands.

BCIMO Project Funders

BCIMO
Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre
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Dudley
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