Plans unveiled for a very light rail (VLR) network in England

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A council in the West Midlands has shared plans for a £415 million very light rail network. Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s plans are part of the council’s new transport strategy, which outlines priorities for the next decade.

The very light rail (VLR) network is intended to be less expensive than traditional rail, light rail, or tram systems. However, it would make use of existing road and rail infrastructure. Passenger capacity would be limited to 60 people per vehicle, similar to that of a bus (a typical tram can carry about 250 people).

The council revealed that the VLR’s capital costs could be 30% to 50% less than that of a tram system. According to the strategy document, the new VLR would connect Stoke-on-Trent with six other towns via three main lines. The lines include the Northern line, the Central line, and the Southern line.

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The very light rail (VLR) network project

According to the paper, the VLR’s low capacity “could be overcome either through higher-frequency services or through the use of new technologies where two vehicles could move together.” Along with the strategy document, consultant Sweco published a strategic outline case for the VLR. Other proposals include significant improvements to buses and other public transportation, two new railway stations, and multimodal hubs throughout the city.

The transportation strategy would be in effect until 2031. It would include road improvements, rail service improvements, and plans to decarbonize transportation. This would be throughout the local authority area. It would also include improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure.

VLR has only been used in Qatar so far. Coventry City Council, on the other hand, has received funding from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement to further develop its own proposals. The plans for a VLR route in Coventry are under development, according to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and will connect major employment and education sites with the city center, as well as integrate with bus and railway stations.

Coventry City Council is testing the integrated system in collaboration with the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre in Dudley. The public consultation on Stoke-on-transportation Trent’s plans ends at the end of November.