Very light rail in Coventry?

A number of people have asked me recently for further details about a ‘plan’ to introduce trams back into Coventry. There has been some publicity in the local media about it and I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify what it is all about.

As you know, as well as being a local Councillor in St. Michael’s Ward, I am also the Coventry City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration. In short, this is the policy area which looks at inward investment, redevelopment, transport, tourism and many other exciting areas.

So, one of the first questions I asked on taking the job was: is our public transport system good enough in Coventry?

In general, the answer has been a resounding no! The question then is what to do about it?

You will have heard about the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) train which the government are pressing on with. Whether, you, I or anyone else agrees with the principle, the government are progressing with it, the biggest construction project this country has seen for decades? Its first stop from London will be right next to the NEC which is just a few short miles from Coventry down the A45.

You will also be aware of the new Combined Authority for the West Midlands which Coventry is a member of. Again, this is a government construct which they are determined to press ahead with as part of their devolution agenda. It has many flaws that we are all aware of but one of its potential strengths is that it comes with new government money and borrowing powers. The idea is that this will encourage further investment in the area and create jobs for local people.

This got me thinking.

Other than road and the train to Birmingham, how will Coventry be linked up to HS2?

The answer? A bus I was told! A sprint bus to be exact. However, it is clear there is no great desire nor love for this idea so I asked about alternatives.

I was told we have a world class organisation in Coventry developing alternatives to traditional trams and buses! Very Light Rail (VLR) is its name. This is happening at the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University in Coventry. It is light, flexible and more importantly, cheaper than traditional types of trams. It doesn’t require heavy infrastructure alterations either such as overhead cables or road and bridge strengthening. Surely, I should ask that we examine and explore this opportunity? If we can get the Combined Authority to free up some of the £370M agreed as part of the devolution deal to join the authority, we will be in business.

You might ask why though? Well, why not?

When was the last time Coventry had a unique, new and revolutionary public transport system? It could be linked to Jaguar Land Rover in Whitley and beyond. Coventry could have VLR running in and out of Warwick University who employ thousands of people. And it could eventually be linked up to HS2 and even a new Birmingham Airport with a second runway. We could build it too.

The opportunity is there and the economic prize for Coventry and our population is great. It would mean new jobs, a new 21st Century transport system and yes, a tourist attraction for Coventry too.

I owe it to our citizens to at the very least see what is possible and practical.

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2 thoughts on “Very light rail in Coventry?

  1. You certainly need something! Trams have made an enormous difference to the volume of traffic in the town of Tours in France. I watched this happen . Tours used to be so overwhelmed with traffic just like coventry is now, I remember having to drive twice around the city sometimes looking for a parking place anc finally have to park far from where I wanted to be. It took a few years to build the tram system and by chance I happened to be in Tours on the day of inauguration of the trams about five years ago. The difference was immediate! No longer are Tours’ roads jam packed with cars, driving and parking is easy for a visitor to the town. Basel on Switzerland is a pleasure to visit, the tram service is excellent and almost no cars in the town centre. I know it is the same in many German towns too. I find Coventry traffic horrendous nowadays when I visit, I could never entertain the idea of coming back to live in Coventry where I heard that the average motorist spends a few hours a month sitting in traffic jams!

    • Thanks for the reply. Coventry traffic is not that bad compared to many other places due to its good raod network. The key point is offering alternatives to travel and to connect Coventry to its neighbourhoods but also places of work and transport hubs.

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