November 2013: Revolution VLR Consortium wins funding to re-think the train
Revolution VLR (Very Light Rail) Consortium is one of the first four of eight entrants to have been awarded investment as a result of entering the Radical Train competition, run by the UK rail industry’s Enabling Innovation Team. The investments, which are the first substantial tranche of competition funding to be released from EIT, will be genuine enablers to the winning SMEs, organisations and consortia, who now have the opportunity to practically demonstrate the viability of their proposals.
The ‘Radical Train’ challenge was set up to seek out proposals for new ideas which aim to make a marked difference in the performance of trains on Britain’s railways, encouraging ideas to re-think the fundamentals about rolling stock. A total of 56 high level entrants applied and eight will be offered investment. The first four contracts have been agreed supporting over £6 million worth of innovation projects in the UK.
The Revolution VLR Consortium is committed to developing and building an affordable, low carbon, light-weight rail vehicle to facilitate low cost connectivity of regional and rural areas. The Consortium believes that such an approach is fundamental to the provision of integrated and sustainable short range public transport systems both now and in the future. Their project will demonstrate a next generation of very light-weight railcar (VLR) using hybrid propulsion technology, coupled with a unique self-powered bogie and modular, composite body shell design. A key element of the project is to utilise off-the-shelf componentry where practical to reduce overall manufacturing cost and improve reliability and maintainability. Another aspect of the research involved is to evaluate the application of existing, essentially ‘heavy rail’, safety standards to VLR railcars and produce a discussion paper for consideration by the Radical Train stakeholders.
The VLR Consortium is being led by Transport Design International (TDI) who, since the mid-1980s have been involved in the design of both heavy and light rail rolling stock for the major train builders, as well as electric vehicles and automated people movers. TDI is supported by WMG (University of Warwick) who have pioneering experience in the light-weighting of automotive body structures for OEMs such as Jaguar Land Rover; GKN who supply automotive components and engineering resource on a global scale; Unipart Rail who have one of the largest bogie overhaul centres in Europe and are industry leaders in management of the rolling stock supply chain, Trelleborg who are leading the field in the application of low cost track infrastructure and Allectra who are a specialised engineering company.