TRAINS to and from the new Ricoh Arena station on matchdays and for other events could finally be running by Christmas, claims Coventry council.
It says an ‘innovative’ diesel train designed by a Warwickshire engineering company is set to be trialled between Coventry and Nuneaton stopping at the Coventry Arena station.
If successful, the pilot scheme using re-engineered London Underground carriages could also provide extra seats for commuters travelling on the new ‘NUCKLE’ service, which includes another new station at Bermuda Park.
It follows a furore over train operator London Midland’s failure to provide diesel trains on the line to serve the Ricoh on matchdays, after the station opened last year after more than a decade of planning.
Attempts by Ricoh owners, rugby club Wasps, following discussions with partners including the council, to commission charter trains failed, with the club claiming it was unviable.
The deal – which Coventry City Council said involved the council, Warwickshire County Council, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and London Midland – means Vivarail Limited’s prototype Class 230 could serve events including football and rugby matches by Christmas.
The proposal could also mean three times as many commuters could use the regular hourly train service.
The 12-month trial will monitor performance, passenger experience and running costs.
The council said Transport for West Midlands, the transport arm of the new WMCA, and CWLEP will share the cost of leasing the prototype three-car train, built using underground carriages’ ‘corrosion-free’ aluminium body shell and electric motors with automotive-industry diesel engines added.
Coventry councillor David Welsh, deputy cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “Anything we can do to boost the number of people that can travel to the Ricoh by train has got to be good news.
“We all know that the NUCKLE project aimed to link people to jobs – but local people want the option to leave their car at home and travel to the Ricoh by train.
“The current single carriage train once an hour is woefully inadequate to serve events – and it’s not what we wanted for the city.
“As soon as possible we will be talking to both Wasps and Coventry City Football Club to encourage them to join us is making this happen.”
Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, said: “Vivarail is delighted to be working in this partnership to bring our new train into service this year. We are proud to be a local company and to have created new jobs in the area, so it is exceptionally pleasing that the first passengers to ride on our trains will be from Coventry and Warwickshire.”
It is hoped the £23million NUCKLE scheme will eventually extend southwards to a new station at Kenilworth and beyond.
Expanding Coventry Station with a new platform is also part of the scheme – billed as crucial for the local economy and struggling city centre.