PLANS to return a light rail people mover system to Coventry’s streets using pioneering modern technology -potentially without a driver – have moved a step forward.
As we exclusively revealed in October last year, the initial plan has been to move people around the city and connect Coventry city centre with the new HS2 high speed rail Birmingham interchange station near the NEC and Birmingham Airport planned for 2026.
Now the plan in development for a ‘unique rapid transit light rail’ system has been unveiled by researchers at Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick, alongside leading Coventry councillors.
They have unveiled today details of a £6m research and development project to ‘connect the city using state-of-the-art, lightweight, battery-operated, driverless rail vehicles on a low cost track, which will be designed and built in UK.’
The project’s leaders says old-style trams in the UK are imported and very costly – so the aim is to create a UK supply chain for manufacturing lightweight rail vehicles and tracks, to it more affordable for passengers.
The first demonstrator vehicle is estimated to be built and ready for testing by Spring 2019.
The idea has been explored since last year by the council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, councillor Jim O’Boyle, and deputy cabinet member, councillor David Welsh.
It is the first time since the 1990s that proposals to return what some will regard as a ‘modern tram-style system’ to the city’s streets have been on the table.
The project will be funded by the government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal (subject to approval of the business case).
The project team says: “These small rail vehicles will have the capability to operate autonomously without a driver, which will reduce the operational costs and enable more frequent services for passengers.
“The vehicles will be battery operated using rapid charging solutions and therefore will not require overhead cables.”
WMG, and Warwick’s School of Engineering, are also developing a ‘novel track solution’ for the system.
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, chairman of WMG, said: “Delivering research and innovation for the creation of technological solutions and the expansion of British manufacturing has always been at the heart of WMG.
“I am delighted that Coventry is adopting this cutting-edge very light rail technology, which will benefit the city and will set a new trend for urban public transport.”
Labour leading councillor O’Boyle, who is also a CWLEP board director, said, “This kind of innovation is what WMG, Warwick University and in fact Coventry do best and it’s really good to think that our city is at the very front of new advances in transport.”
He added it would offer a ‘really frequent’ service – “a real hop on, hop off service, which will help to take cars off our roads – important when traffic is growing rapidly and economic success relies on keeping people moving.”
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