U.K. City Plans to Develop “Lighter” Light Rail - Next City

English City Plans to Develop “Lighter” Light Rail

​The town of Dudley in Britain’s West Midlands is launching a program to make itself the hub of research into the next generation of light-rail technology, Global Rail News reports.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group have drawn up plans to launch a research center for the development of “very light rail” technology, which its advocates hope will revolutionize rail transit construction and operation.

The goal is to reduce the weight and cost of vehicles and track in order to make rail transit a viable option for suburban and rural areas as well as cities. Those of a certain age may recall a similar “very light rail” technology of the 1920s: the single-truck Birney Safety Car, which was developed to provide lower-cost trolley service for smaller cities.

The proposed research center would incorporate 2 km (1.2 miles) of unused railroad track, test platforms, and a large engineering center. The facility would also contain meeting rooms, laboratories, classrooms and exhibition and conference space.

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership has given Dudley Council £18 million ($25.05 million U.S.) towards the expected £29 million ($40.37 million U.S.) cost of constructing the center. There’s already a project for the researchers to tackle as well: University of Warwick researchers in September unveiled a conceptual design for a very light rail system for Coventry using driverless, battery-powered small railcars.

“If given the go ahead, the innovation hub will put Dudley at the forefront of the world’s development of very light rail technology,” Ian Kettle, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, told GRN. “We will be able to market this as a product worldwide and significantly boost our opportunities to strengthen and grow our local economy.”

St. Louis Teases More Details for Third Light-Rail Line

Metro Report International reports that the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, St. Louis’ metropolitan planning organization, has begun a conceptual design study for a north-south LRT line in partnership with the city of St. Louis.

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