Very Light Rail project moves forward

Prototype Very Light Rail Vehicle

In June 2020 we reported progress with the Very Light Rail Project (VLR) in Coventry. Since then the vehicle development project has delivered its very light rail (VLR) prototype vehicle to the Quinton Rail Technology Centre in Warwickshire for final assembly and system integration, ahead of testing in February.

The work will be carried out by NP Aerospace, which was appointed to the project in August.

Following assembly, the VLR will undergo a programme of validation tests in February 2021 at the project’s new Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) in Dudley, West Midlands. Subsequently, it will be used to demonstrate the technology to stakeholders and potential sponsors.

The project is being developed on behalf of the city of Coventry by the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) department, alongside the Revolution VLR consortium of partners, which comprises Transport Design International (TDI), Eversholt Rail, Cummins, RDM Group and Transcal Engineering.

The design phase of the project was funded through a £12.2m grant from the British government’s West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal, with an additional £2.45m from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership LEP Growth Fund.

Phase 2, which covers the production of the prototype, is funded through a £2.75m grant from the Department for Transport (DfT), which will be matched by the consortium partners.

RVLR aims to develop a more cost-effective, battery-powered alternative to traditional LRVs for use in small and medium-sized cities such as Coventry, which can operate without catenary on quickly installable track.

The project aims to develop vehicles with an unladen weight of less than one tonne/m3 and an axle load of four tonnes, with a capacity of 20 seated and 30 standing passengers and a target selling price of £650,000.

“WMG are delighted that the vehicle build is running on plan in spite of Covid-19,” says Dr James Meredith, senior research fellow in the VLR project at WMG. “The project is an excellent showcase for British engineering and manufacturing, with over 70% British content.”

The project is divided into four parts, which are being carried out simultaneously:

  • design, construction, and testing of a VLR vehicle prototype
  • design, development, and testing of a low-cost modular track
  • development of a design and business case for a line in Coventry, and
  • design, planning and delivery of an operations and maintenance strategy.

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