Coventry VLR test track (Photo TfWM)

UK: A novel type of tram track which is intended to be cheaper and faster to install than convention designs is being tested along with the battery-powered prototype Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle.

The track is shallower than conventional light rail designs, and can be laid 300 mm deep into the road surface. This is intended to reduce the need for costly and time consuming utility diversions.

It was designed by Ingerop company Rendel in conjunction with WMG at the University of Warwick, and a test section has been installed by contractor Galliford Try at the VLR National Innovation Centre in Dudley.

This includes a tight curve and a 250 m vertical hump, which Transport for West Midlands said can pose significant challenges for traditional slab track designs.

The track is instrumented so that vibrations, sounds and stresses produced by the vehicle can be monitored to assess how the track and VLR vehicle interact.

‘In our view, this system offers significant benefits and added value to that of the more traditional light rail installation and construction process’, said Jamie Missenden, Regional Manager with Galliford Try, on November 2.

The tests are to be followed by a real-world demonstration in Coventry city centre.

‘The track is unique; it’s specifically designed to be installed more quickly and more easily than the tracks used by other light rail systems’, said Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for Jobs, Regeneration & Climate Change. ’This test will also show that our vehicle is able to run on tight corners and up and down hills — it’s this that will enable it to run in smaller and medium sized cities.

‘But there is no reason a traditional tram couldn’t run on it too — making delivery of trams more affordable.’