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Shadow Rail Minister visits BCIMO

Posted on 20 Mar 2024. Edited by: John Hunter. Read 750 times.
Shadow Rail Minister visits BCIMOShadow Rail Minister Stephen Morgan visited the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) earlier this week to see first-hand the progress being made in the delivery of Coventry Very Light Rail.

The visit, organised by Midlands Connect, coincided with the publication of the organisation’s recent report, which looks at the relationship that the UK’s world-class universities have with local rail, and in particular the corridor between Coventry, Leicester, and Nottingham — three of the major economic and academic hubs in the Midlands.

The report identified that a reliable and consistent regional rail network is critical to the prosperity of academia and with just 3% of journeys between Coventry and Leicester being made by train (as a result of the cessation of direct services between Leicester and Coventry in 2004), this rail corridor is in desperate need of revitalisation.

Midlands Connect, which researches, develops, and progresses transport projects that provide the largest possible environmental, economic and social benefits for the Midlands and the rest of the UK, are proposing to reconnect the rail line at Nuneaton for the first time in over two decades. This will allow for direct trains between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham, better connecting these three great cities by significantly reducing journey times and allowing for a more frequent service.

The scheme is supported by Labour’s Coventry City Council, Nottingham and Leicester’s City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby as well as local MPs such as Lilian Greenwood and Alex Norri.

The purpose of Mr Morgan’s visit was to see first-hand the progress being made in the delivery of the Coventry Very Light Rail (CVLR) project at BCIMO’s unique rail facility, the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC). The centre, which is based next to the new Wednesbury To Brierley Hill Metro Extension at Castle Hill in Dudley, has been home to the CVLR project since its arrival on-site in 2022.

Integrated system testing

Since then, a series of tests have been undertaken, including the installation of the project’s novel track form in October 2023 enabling integrated system testing to take place which will prove its suitability for the needs of Coventry and other small cities/large towns as the project is developed.

Shadow minister visits BCIMOMr Morgan was joined by his senior parliamentary researcher, Stephen Dhillon, Richard Parker, Shadow West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) mayoral candidate, Councillor George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change at Coventry City Council, Maria Machancoses, chief executive of Midlands Connect and BCIMO’s CEO Neil Fulton.

After introductions and a safety briefing, the visitors took a ride on the CVLR vehicle, travelling around the facility’s unique 15m radius rail test loop before journeying along the 2.2km rail test track and through the 870m tunnel. A few lucky members of the party, Mr Morgan included, were able to have a go at driving the vehicle, which will have a capacity of around 56 people and reach speeds of up to 70km per hour when fully operational.

During the visit, Mr Morgan said: “Transport infrastructure is key to the vitality of local communities, and innovative projects such as Coventry Very Light Rail are a critical companion to investment in regional rail connections. Labour will work with local leaders, businesses, unions and industry experts in the West Midlands to deliver a credible and transformative programme of rail and transport infrastructure investment.”

Mr Fulton concluded: “We were delighted to host the Shadow Rail Minister at BCIMO. We are passionate about what we can offer to the whole of the rail industry — that encompasses heavy, light and very light rail — and we want to share this with important visitors such as Stephen. Our Rail Development and Test Site, together with our unique meeting and events spaces, allow us to support innovation in rail from development and testing right through to commercialisation.”