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Very Light Rail (VLR) Innovation Centre and Rail Line, Dudley


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Evening All.

 

Not knowing if there is already a topic set up for the above, and being a local to Dudley I thought I would share some recent photos of the the re-developenment of Dudley Railway Station / Dudley Freight liner terminal and now the VLR test centre in Dudley.

 

The building work in progressing well, but since my last visit the steel work and lift shafts have been erected at the Tipton Road end along with the added works of the midland metro extension.

 

(Dudley - Tipton Road prior to steel work being erected)

 

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(New point work being installed - looking towards Dudley Tunnel)

 

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(Blowers Green end of Dudley Tunnel)

 

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(The site of Blowers Green Railway Station, even though the platforms have long since gone the building is still there)

 

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(The end of the test track, where the midland metro shall take over and rejoin the of the line bound for Brierley Hill)

 

IMG_3315.jpeg.278c7e73f7eceb3785c1b1ba27b50ffb.jpeg

 

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Indeed they are, but what makes me wonder is that the test track starts on the right coming off the depot and then swings over to the left as it comes out of the tunnel.

 

The reason for my thought is that with the possible thoughts of re-opening the Bescot to Stourbridge Junction freight line, won't they need to re-adjust the alignment to allow for the network rail line.

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Being a Friday and the sun breaking through, I thought I wonder past Dudley to see the latest on construction of the test track and buildings.

 

As you will see, development has occurred quickly over the last couple of weeks.

 

(the new test building on the left, not sure what the small building is on the left)

 

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(a further view of the new point work for which is all being wired in with the track work ready to enter the building)

 

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(down the other end, Im lead to believe that a platform is being installed to the left hand side where the track is)

 

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(the below shows where the midland metro returns to the track bed with a lot of clearance and preparation being undertaken. I noticed that there have been notices fitted to the security fences relating to planning and complusery purchase orders for the midland metro) 

 

IMG_3537.jpeg.264ae53581e0f9b71701f7b34e90f804.jpeg

 

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Hi Zomboid 

 

A bit of information below, but is something that the University of Warwick University is working with. I think that they are due to operate in Coventry, very useful page on the Warwick.ac.uk / very light railway.

 

Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre

A joint venture between WMG and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. The proposed centre will be located at Castle Hill, Dudley.

The Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre will offer:

Co-ordination of strategic initiatives

Meeting rooms and a networking area

A resident R&D team with research labs and offices

A workshop for the assembly of prototype vehicles and systems

Test and evaluation track for prototype vehicle trials

Conference and exhibition facilities

Masters level courses for next generation light rail technical specialists

Training courses in maintenance and operation of light rail systems

Incubator units for SME companies engaged in very light rail

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21 minutes ago, Wickham Green too said:

Hydrogen powered p'raps ?

The ones I've heard about are battery with top-up charging at each terminus.  

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Thats what I understand, a cheap version of a tram but with no over-head equipment.

(found the below for which might be of interest)

 

This project aims to deliver all of the benefits of trams but at a cost of £10m per kilometre (compared with an average of £50m per kilometre for a traditional tram solution). The vehicle will be smaller than traditional trams and battery powered avoiding the need for overhead power cables. With a passenger capacity of 50, the vehicles will provide a hop-on, hop-off service. To minimise driver costs, it is envisaged that the vehicles will ultimately be autonomous.

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On 01/04/2021 at 19:51, Rob Coote said:

Indeed they are, but what makes me wonder is that the test track starts on the right coming off the depot and then swings over to the left as it comes out of the tunnel.

 

The reason for my thought is that with the possible thoughts of re-opening the Bescot to Stourbridge Junction freight line, won't they need to re-adjust the alignment to allow for the network rail line.

I posted the link of this topic over to my son, who has been working recently on the project. (he is actually in the photo, in the centre distance). He emailed me back with the following reply:

 

'Might want to tell them that there are only Timber Sleepers on the turnouts, the rest are concretes... 

And it runs on the right at the south end and through the tunnel, then crosses over because of the placements of the turnouts lining up with the new building....  partly due to where the old drainage ran...' 

 

Stewart

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13 hours ago, Rob Coote said:

Thats what I understand, a cheap version of a tram but with no over-head equipment.

(found the below for which might be of interest)

 

This project aims to deliver all of the benefits of trams but at a cost of £10m per kilometre (compared with an average of £50m per kilometre for a traditional tram solution). The vehicle will be smaller than traditional trams and battery powered avoiding the need for overhead power cables. With a passenger capacity of 50, the vehicles will provide a hop-on, hop-off service. To minimise driver costs, it is envisaged that the vehicles will ultimately be autonomous.

 

Similar concept to some Australian trams?

 

Mike.

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Specifically to Coventry the details are here:

https://www.coventry.gov.uk/verylightrail

There was a presentation by the Coventry City Council project manager on a recent webinar from the West Midlands branch of CILT.

Coventry was half the webinar, the other half was about the reopening of Darlaston and Willenhall stations and associated passenger services.

The Coventry project is really interesting as due to the lightweight nature of the vehicles the idea is that that the rails only have to lie within in the tarmac without the need for the expensive part of utility diversions. It's all in the above link.

Apparently there is quite a lot of interest from other smaller cities and larger towns who would like a light rail system but on a much cheaper basis than the conventional tram systems.

 

David

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12 minutes ago, DavidLong said:

Apparently there is quite a lot of interest from other smaller cities and larger towns who would like a light rail system but on a much cheaper basis than the conventional tram systems.

 

Erm, trolleybuses?

 

Mike.

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16 minutes ago, Enterprisingwestern said:

 

Erm, trolleybuses?

 

Mike.

They use overhead wiring otherwise it is an electric bus! VLR doesn't use wiring which is part of the lower cost. Steel wheel on steel rail will always be more efficient than rubber tyre on tarmac without mentioning rubber residue.

 

David

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1 hour ago, DavidLong said:

They use overhead wiring otherwise it is an electric bus! VLR doesn't use wiring which is part of the lower cost. Steel wheel on steel rail will always be more efficient than rubber tyre on tarmac without mentioning rubber residue.

 

David

 

Trolleybuses can be made like trams to recharge at stops without overhead wiring?

 

Mike.

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1 hour ago, Enterprisingwestern said:

 

Trolleybuses can be made like trams to recharge at stops without overhead wiring?

 

Mike.

 

I made a rather rapid exit from a tram in Vienna a couple of years ago when I saw what looked like trolleybus wires in a side street (Vienna hasn't had trolleybuses for years) made off to a traction pole.

On investigating, one of these appeared and put it's pantograph up to charge the batteries.....

 

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There seemed to be a small fleet of them running a circular route round the City Centre, but the economics of the whole thing were rather spoilt by drivers having to swap between vehicles seemingly after each circuit, whilst at least one vehicle was left behind on charge.

 

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Edited by Johann Marsbar
added photo
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Having watched what was involved with fitting trams into central Brum, they spent a lot on moving services presumably to avoid the man from the gas / electricity / water board coming along and digging up the tram tracks later and holding up services. This expense would be incurred even with Very Light Rail so I am suspicious of their cost estimates.

 

Slightly different topic, my brother was the site agent for Dudley Freightliner Terminal - I think this would be late 1960s. He worked for Bryant Civil Engineering at the time.

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13 minutes ago, John-Miles said:

Having watched what was involved with fitting trams into central Brum, they spent a lot on moving services presumably to avoid the man from the gas / electricity / water board coming along and digging up the tram tracks later and holding up services. This expense would be incurred even with Very Light Rail so I am suspicious of their cost estimates.

 

Slightly different topic, my brother was the site agent for Dudley Freightliner Terminal - I think this would be late 1960s. He worked for Bryant Civil Engineering at the time.

I believe the track is supposed to be based on prefabricated concrete panels, which can quickly be taken out if works are needed to utilities underneath.  Obviously this still stops the trams (and I think the rails still have to be cut and welded back afterwards), but not for as long.  

 

The promoters claim the reduced power consumption of steel wheel as a reason to use this instead of rubber tyre.  I guess it helps with the battery range too.  

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Very interesting topic & links to Warwick.ac.uk / very light railway, thanks Rob for starting it.

 

I can see a potential location for this technology for line reopening so will follow with interest.

 

Dava

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14 hours ago, Edwin_m said:

The promoters claim the reduced power consumption of steel wheel as a reason to use this instead of rubber tyre. 

 

Just my 2 cents worth.

Factor in the cost of this development, the extra costs and inconvenience when utilities have to be accessed and I'm not convinced that this re-invention of the wheel is entirely necessary.

 

Mike.

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30 minutes ago, Enterprisingwestern said:

 

Just my 2 cents worth.

Factor in the cost of this development, the extra costs and inconvenience when utilities have to be accessed and I'm not convinced that this re-invention of the wheel is entirely necessary.

 

Mike.

But at least someone is having a go. Working through all the “gnarly bits” that don’t show up in spreadsheets and computer models. It’s also a damn site easier to sell concepts and ideas when people can see (and ride) what they’re buying or funding into, rather than killing them with PowerPoint presentations. As the saying goes “sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate”...

 

idd

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1 minute ago, idd15 said:

But at least someone is having a go. Working through all the “gnarly bits” that don’t show up in spreadsheets and computer models. It’s also a damn site easier to sell concepts and ideas when people can see (and ride) what they’re buying or funding into, rather than killing them with PowerPoint presentations. As the saying goes “sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate”...

 

idd

And if it is rolled out more widely then the cost of the initial development as a share of the total cost could fall significantly.

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If we are to reduce dependency on the car we have to accept that one solution won’t fit all and a combination of all these things is needed.

 

Spend the money and try all these variations on a theme. 


VLR would maybe work in small congested cities and even larger towns that may not need or afford a conventional tram system. 

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Thanks for posting these- I grew up in Dudley, I can -just- remember the last trains running on the line.  Isn't it bloody typical that after thirty-something years waiting for them to crack-on and reopen the line, all this happens whilst I'm locked down in Yorkshire :)  If I get chance to visit my parents down there this year, I'll have to nip up to have a look.

 

Is there any plan to re-use the Blowers Green station building as part of this?  Would be a shame if it still sat there unused, or even got demolished, after out-surviving just about every other station/railway building on the line.

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