Coventry-based NP Aerospace
, which has a long heritage of building military vehicles, has been appointed as the assembly contractor of the ground-breaking rail-guided, battery-powered vehicle for Coventry’s planned Very Light Rail (VLR) network.
The company joins WMG
at the University of Warwick and Transport Design International
(TDI) who are partners on the innovation side of the project which is led by Coventry City Council.
Throughout August, WMG and TDI have been working with NP Aerospace, constructing the sleek, carbon fibre and metallic structure that will form the backbone of the vehicle. It will be capable of comfortably carrying 56 passengers and will be tested on the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre Test Track at Castle Hill in Dudley.
This prototype vehicle is the first of its kind and is scheduled to start on-track testing early next year.
Following a comprehensive test programme for vehicle and track, a permanent tracked route is planned to be installed across Coventry supported by a fleet of locally manufactured vehicles.
The first route will provide a service between the Rail Station and Walsgrave Hospital and will offer residents, workers, and tourists an affordable, quick, and environmentally friendly way of travelling around the city.
The VLR R&D phase is being managed by researchers from WMG, at the University of Warwick, in partnership with Coventry City Council and Transport for West Midlands.
The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and the West Midlands Combined Authority Devolution Deal.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council and CWLEP board director, had a chance to look at the prototype when he visited NP Aerospace last week.
He said: “I was excited to see the incredible progress that the team had made in such a short time. Being able to see the vehicle really allows you to visualise how impressive this project will be.
“It will be the first of its kind in the world and is being led by world-beating local automotive experience and is using cutting-edge materials.
“The proposed VLR network is key to our vision for transport here in Coventry. We want our public transport to be efficient, affordable and most importantly environmentally friendly. I believe it is going to revolutionise how we all travel in this city.
“Coventry led the industrial revolution and now we are leading the green industrial revolution. I firmly believe that VLR is the future of public transport in small- and medium-size towns and I couldn’t be happier that it is being designed and built here in Coventry with the skills and expertise that we have right here.”
Dr Darren Hughes, associate professor at WMG said: “The Coventry Very Light Rail project will deliver a step-change cost reduction for light rail in the UK.
“We are really proud that this marks the beginning of the journey to roll out low cost, rail based transport for medium sized cities in the UK. We are particularly pleased that despite current global challenges we can continue to work with TDI, NP Aerospace and the supply chain to deliver this novel rail vehicle on time and on budget.”
Darren Smith, head of TDI, said: “The potential positive impact that Very Light Rail will bring not only to UK manufacturing across many sectors, but also the local economies and communities, cannot be overstated enough. TDI are extremely proud to be involved in such a prestigious project.”
James Kempston, NP Aerospace CEO, said: “NP Aerospace has a long history in Coventry and is proud to be supporting the Very Light Rail programme in our local region. The VLR build utilises NP Aerospace’s capability in assembling and delivering complex defence vehicle programmes and extends this into the rail and transportation sector.
“During a period where the pandemic has caused disruptions to the economy, the VLR build has instead generated local jobs reinforcing the regional and wider UK workforce and supply chains.
“Furthermore, it provides an economically and environmentally friendly transportation capability with global demand, driving UK export opportunities and future economic growth in the region. We are thrilled to be supporting TDI in delivering this capability to Coventry.”