The proposed £28m VLRNIC will be located in Castle Hill in Dudley. The site is that of the former Dudley rail station, which ceased passenger services in the 1960s, and is adjacent to a disused freight line running between Stourbridge and Walsall. The alignment will initially be re-laid with a single test track from Castle Hill to Cinder Bank. This will be used for prototype trials, allowing for testing and evaluation of demonstrator vehicles and systems.
A key focus of the Innovation Centre’s research and development activity will be an holistic approach to public transport solutions. The driving vision behind the Centre is for lower-cost VLR technologies to become part of future integrated, multi-modal ‘hub-to-home’ transport systems. Far from introducing VLR as a competitor to traditional heavy rail or high speed services for intercity connections, work at the Innovation Centre will approach the emerging vehicle technology as an alternative to existing technologies, where it is appropriate to do so – e.g. at the beginning or end of longer journeys, linking halts in local communities to larger regional transport hubs.
The VLRNIC will offer:
- Co-ordination of strategic initiatives
- Meeting rooms and a networking area
- A resident R&D team with research labs and offices
- A workshop for the assembly of prototype vehicles and systems
- Test and evaluation track for prototype vehicle trials
- Conference and exhibition facilities
- Masters level courses for next generation light rail technical specialists
- Training courses in maintenance and operation of light rail systems
- Incubator units for SME companies engaged in very light rail