Very Light Rail

Me logo and cwlep logo

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 tram solutions are generally very costly - around £3 million for each tram. 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 first demonstrator vehicle estimated to be built and ready for testing in Autumn 2020.

The project has secured £14.66 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal (£12.2 million) and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership LEP Growth Fund (£2.45 million).

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. VLR aims to provide a real alternative to the car.

Vlr 1

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 in to 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, a parallel VLR project is underway to build a light weight vehicle suitable for heavy rail use . 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.

Take a virtual tour of what the vehicle might look like

Read the cabinet report and the press release.

Very Light Rail

Email: [email protected]

PO Box 15
Council House

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