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That City Centre Very Light Rail Scheme You'd Forgotten About? It's Now Happening

One of the electric very light rail vehicles under development.

Trials of Coventry’s £6B Very Light Rail system could begin in months, as the West Midlands rethinks transport for the post-pandemic world.

Testing is expected at Long Marston, Warwick and at the new £28M Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley. The site already includes a mile of track, but further track and curve laying may be required.

Trials are due to begin this autumn, the International Railway Journal reported.

Coventry's £6B plan for a very light rail tram involves vehicles running on concrete track-slabs inserted into road surfaces. The lower weight means the project needs less-expensive track and less relocation of under-road pipes and utilities, keeping the cost down to £10M/km, relatively low for a rail project.

The first line runs from Coventry railway station to the hospital via the city centre and was originally slated to open in 2021. A second line heading to the University of Warwick and linking to major commercial and residential districts and the HS2 station at Birmingham International would follow in 2023-24.

The very light rail idea re-emerges as Coventry, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands struggle to adapt transport plans to the social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic.

A new emphasis on walking and cycling is being backed by the government. Birmingham city centre will be transformed with dual carriageways repurposed into cycle lanes, a default 20mph speed limit, and on-street parking removed to widen pavements and provide space for cyclists. The council will reallocate road space for cycle lanes, the first of which will link the city centre to City Hospital via the Jewellery Quarter.