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New electric ‘very light rail’ vehicle planned for Coventry

Engineers have unveiled plans for a battery-powered, lightweight, ‘very light rail’ vehicle to operate in Coventry.

A 3D simulation of the innovative light rail vehicle has been developed by engineers and researchers at WMG, University of Warwick alongside Transport Design International (TDI).

The light-rail vehicle will be battery-powered and WMG said its long-term goal is that it will become fully autonomous, which will allow more vehicles to operate “intelligently” in order to meet passenger demand.

It will be able to hold 50 passengers and WMG wants it to work like the London Underground with a hop-on hop-off system and no timetable.

Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “Very light rail is a fantastic innovation and it has the potential to transform the way people travel.

“It will be much more affordable to install than traditional trams, take up far less road space, be able to run alongside traffic, and our ultimate aim is that it doesn’t require a driver so it can be a frequent service.

“They will be safer and more environmentally friendly and I hope go on to provide good job opportunities for local people too.”

O’Boyle added that Coventry had a rich tradition of vehicle manufacturing and said that this work would help it lead the way in future transport too.

The rail vehicle will have a lightweight design and will have no overhead power supply, which will allow for future use on other non-electrified routes.

Around £12m in funding for the project has come from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) devolution deal to undertake the research and development, and £2.46m was contributed from the government’s Local Growth Fund through the local LEP.

Technical support and guidance from specialists from Transport for West Midlands has been allocated by the WMCA, and the first-of-its-kind design is available to view in 3D.

The first test vehicle will be manufactured by mid-2020 and experts are also working to develop a new track system.

Darren Hughes, WMG, University of Warwick, commented: “The Coventry light-rail system will be innovative in bringing together technologies from a number of sectors to deliver a low-cost, environmentally-sustainable public transport solution for the City of Coventry.

“Seeing the 3D simulation and envisaging how it will look within Coventry makes us look forward to building the first vehicle that will be ready for testing at a test track facility during 2020.”


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