Very Light Rail
The UK rail industry needs vehicles which are lighter, more energy efficient and cheaper to purchase & operate. Meanwhile, rural and suburban communities around the country want more efficient, better connected public transport services for their local areas, which do not rely solely on conventional road-going solutions.
A new type of rail vehicle is needed, especially for short routes where operating traditional heavy rail or tram solutions is uneconomic. The emerging very light rail (VLR) sector aims to remedy this, by harnessing technology from the automotive sector to create hybrid or all-electric self-propelled vehicles which are lightweight (less than 1 tonne per linear metre), energy efficient, cheap to manufacture & operate and geared to the needs of communities.
Reducing weight and improving energy storage/management offers many advantages over traditional rail systems, including the following:
- vehicles with low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
- self-powered vehicles with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
- reduced capital cost and installation time for track infrastructure,
- reduced infrastructure operational and maintenance costs.
There is great potential for VLR vehicles to be used on disused branch lines across the UK, many of which have been closed since the early 1960s.
The UK has the necessary design talent and manufacturing capacity to create next generation VLR vehicles for domestic and export markets. The Revolution VLR project, led by a UK consortium, aims to build a fully operational self-propelled hybrid DMU, with a tare weight of 18 tonnes for an 18m long vehicle and a target selling price of £650k.
To support and stimulate growth in the sector, a VLR National Innovation Centre with a dedicated test track, for vehicle, track and infrastructure trials has also been proposed with a preferred location at Castle Hill, Dudley. The Innovation Centre will serve as a hub for industry and academia, and will offer a research & development programme for integrated, multi-modal ‘hub-to-home’ public transport solutions.