3rd Jul, 2022

Future potential of Very Light Rail speech by Department of Transport chief set for Warwick University conference

THE potential for zero emission Very Light Rail to transform local public transport in Coventry and the West Midlands will be discussed in a key speech by a Department of Transport chief at Warwick University this week.

It comes amid Coventry’s plans for a light rail system on the city’s streets, potentially linking Coventry city centre and station with Warwick University and beyond towards a new HS2 station.

On Thursday, November 28, Steve Berry OBE the Head of Highways Maintenance, Innovation, Resilience, Light Rail and Cableways at the UK Department of Transport will be talking at the Very Light Rail Conference on November 28 at The Slate on the University of Warwick’s campus.

He will be joined by industry speakers and academics involved in developing very light rail, including local companies TDI and RDM. They will talk about three projects that are underway across the West Midlands, and discuss why the region is leading the way in VLR.

Dr Nick Mallinson from WMG, University of Warwick, said: “At WMG we’ve been working on very light rail technology with a number of industry partners for five years.

“Progress achieved to date recently convinced the Department for Transport that the time is right for a conference to showcase the work and make local authorities, transport planners and industry aware of the potential for very light rail solutions.”

Organisers say that, as the UK population continues to grow along with traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, new transport options are needed to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

At present buses and trams (light rail) provide alternatives to private cars, but bus use declined steadily for many years in contrast to tram ridership which has taken passengers out of their cars.

But tram routes are expensive to construct and can only be afforded by large cities like Birmingham, they add. Very Light Rail (VLR) a lower cost, zero emission option for sustainable transport, could be a more affordable solution for medium-sized cities.

The Coventry VLR scheme aims to reduce the cost through the delivery of lightweight, battery electric vehicles combined with a novel prefabricated track form – the first system of its kind in the world – capable of carrying 50 passengers.

3D visualisations of the Coventry VLR vehicle were unveiled earlier this year.

Unlike traditional trams, the Coventry VLR system will not have overhead cables but will be powered by an on-board battery, rapidly charged at the end of the route.

Currently the system is being designed to meet Coventry’s needs, but it is expected other medium-sized UK cities, such as Leicester and Derby, may follow in due course.

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