Could the Beeching cuts which saw the mass closure of thousands of small railway stations across the UK in 1963 be about to be reversed?
Clearly that won’t be possible for many with hundreds of old lines torn up, built on or turned in to walking and cycle paths over the last half century.
Having successfully completed its initial functional tests at the Warwickshire-based Quinton Rail Technology Centre, the only privately owned and independent rail testing and trialling site in the UK, the demonstrator vehicle will now undertake further trialling at a new dedicated facility in Ironbridge. This includes features typical of rail reopening candidate schemes.
The Revolution VLR consortium says that its Revolution VLR will be ready for launch this month, when stakeholders and all interested parties will experience the vehicle.
In August, the consortium revealed that the build and integration of the Revolution VLR Demonstrator vehicle was now complete.
The project has involved seven consortium companies bringing a wide range of expertise to create a first-of-a-kind demonstrator vehicle to support improved services on branch lines, the reopening of disused railway lines, and network extensions.
The vehicle bodyshell is constructed from recycled carbon fibre and uses a modular design. It is powered by an efficient hybrid diesel-electric powertrain, adapted from automotive engine technology, which allows a maximum speed of 65mph. A lithium titanate battery pack provides zero-emissions operation in stations and built-up areas and when at speeds of up to 20 mph. The Demonstrator vehicle interior is configured to provide capacity for 56 seated passengers.
Tim Burleigh, Head of External Relations Eversholt Rail said: “Revolution VLR’s design and performance characteristics make it an attractive and sustainable rolling stock solution for many of the line reopenings being proposed through the [government’s] ‘Restoring Your Railway’ programme. It is highly cost-effective, which will assist scheme sponsors in developing compelling business cases against the backdrop of an increasingly challenging economic environment.”
Darren Smith, Head of Transport Design International (TDI) said: “Revolution VLR is the culmination of significant hard work and commitment for all involved and TDI are immensely proud to have led the consortium which has delivered this ground-breaking vehicle. TDI is at the forefront of developments in Very Light Rail and specialists in utilising light weighting technologies within the rail industry. Our team of designers and engineers have combined the latest developments from the automotive and rail sectors to produce this first of a kind demonstrator vehicle, and we are hugely excited about the future of Revolution VLR as a genuine game-changer within the rail industry. Congratulations must go to everyone who has been involved in bringing this project to life”.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This Government has invested £3.25 million in innovative designs like this one, underlining our commitment to modernising trains and expanding our rail network, offering left-behind communities the chance to restore their railway connections.
“Our railways also have a vital part to play in achieving our net zero ambitions, and these zero emission carriages have the potential to make our network cleaner and greener.”
Luisa Moisio, Head of Research and Development RSSB (RSSB was established in 2003, based on key recommendations from Lord Cullen’s public inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove accident. Our core purpose is to actively help the industry work together to drive improvements in the GB rail system.) said: “RSSB is proud to be part of the consortium which initiated the development of the Revolution VLR to combine the best of state-of-the-art technology from both rail and automotive sectors to offer a significantly cheaper and lower emission solution for branch lines. We are excited about the Revolution VLR demonstrator vehicle’s fast progress toward launch later this year. This is proof of the great innovation that can and will take place when boundaries are pushed, radical ideas are encouraged and adequately supported, and strong collaborations across transport sector are established and fostered.”