Very Light Rail

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Very Light Rail (VLR) is a research and development project, using the latest automotive expertise developed in the region to deliver an innovative and affordable light rail system.

Traditional light rail schemes cost upwards of £25 million per km, in some city centre locations they can cost as much as £100 million per km. This project aims to deliver all of the benefits of trams but at a fraction of the cost – providing a real alternative to the car and helping to improve air quality and reduce congestion.

The project has secured £16.42 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal (£12.2 million), Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership LEP Growth Fund (£2.46 million) and the Getting Building Fund (£1.8 million). 

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What is VLR and why are we doing it?

Coventry City Council is collaborating with WMG, Transport for West Midlands and Dudley Council to apply innovative research and development to the urban light rail sector. The aim is to create a reliable, frequent, environmentally friendly, battery-driven hop on hop off transport system that will work in small to medium-sized towns and cities at a fraction of the cost of a traditional tram.  

A pioneering world first, VLR will operate autonomously at a high frequency to provide a turn-up and go service. There will be no unsightly overhead cables and the track will be able to be laid without the need to relocate services which is time-consuming and expensive.

Why is VLR beneficial?

Coventry needs an environmentally and financially sustainable mass-transit transport system, which is capable of supporting urban and economic development and helping to improve air quality.

Very Light Rail will provide a solution that is comfortable, efficient, reliable and low-cost. The vehicle will have low floors to enable passengers to embark/disembark from the pavement.

Very Light Rail will be lightweight and self-propelled (battery-powered) and run on a lightweight track which is laid closer to the surface than conventional tram track.

VLR aims to get people out of their cars, easing road congestion and improving air quality. The vehicles will be lightweight modular design and because they will weigh less than a conventional tram the infrastructure and maintenance costs will be significantly reduced.

Plans for Coventry

The first route is being developed in Coventry to provide a mass transport system for the city and prove the concept of VLR in a city centre environment. This will connect major employment sites with the city centre and the railway station, which is under redevelopment in preparation for HS2. CCC is leading the overall programme to deliver the outline and full business case for the Transport and Works Act Order.

We envisage that VLR will be part of a wider network of public transport. Buses will continue to be effective in areas where it is not possible for VLR to run.

How will the scheme be delivered?

Work is well underway and falls into four main areas:

  1. design, construction and testing of a VLR vehicle prototype
  2. design, development and testing of an innovative low-cost modular track
  3. development of a design and business case for the first route in Coventry
  4. design, planning and delivery of an operations and maintenance strategy

The long-term vision for VLR is to develop an integrated transport solution which may be commercially available to other cities across the UK and globally

What sort of infrastructure is required?

Coventry Very Light Rail will be run on a lightweight innovative new track specifically designed for the Coventry system which is not laid as deep as conventional light rail lines. As the Coventry VLR is self-propelled, costly overhead electrification is not needed and operation will be pollution-free. Coventry VLR is not designed to run on mainline railways, however, another project, Revolution VLR, has seen the delivery of a light rail car suitable for mainline rail. A test track of the new track form will be delivered at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC ) in Dudley for testing the integrated system.

The VLRNIC will allow for testing and development of VLR vehicles in the West Midlands. This will include a test track and workshop space for Research and Development activities.


This very light rail system will establish the city as a trailblazer in adopting new transport technology.

Images are indicative.

How will cyclists be catered for along the VLR route?

Coventry City Council is keen to make sure that there will be sufficient provision for cyclists alongside the first route, in Coventry, and future routes. Current planning guidance is being reviewed and updated to set out design principles in relation to catering for cyclists within the VLR route design.

Take a virtual tour of what the vehicle might look like

Please send any questions or comments to [email protected]

Read the January 2017 cabinet report March 2018 cabinet report and the press releases 1 May 2020, 27 August 2020, 26 November 2020 and 24 March 2021.

Very Light Rail

Email: [email protected]

PO Box 15
Council House

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