A FLEET of no-frills ‘Very Light Trains’ could be introduced in the north-east of England by 2019 as part of a £4million trial.
The project is being supported by the Department for Transport, Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), and several large rail industry suppliers.
The VLR Technologies (VLRT) consortium is being helped by DfT funding and is developing a new design of lightweight self-powered railcar capable of carrying up to 120 people at 60mph.
VLRT is in discussions with rolling stock leasing companies (ROSCOs) and several operators about the concept, and the Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Ashington route has been suggested as a prime candidate for the trial service.
A report to Northumberland County Council late last year estimated that the reintroduction of passenger services on the Ashington line could boost the local economy by £70m – with more than 380,000 people predicted to use the line by 2034.
The railcars will use lightweight materials and an all-new design of self-powered bogie (see below), and are expected to cost around £500,000 each, less than half the cost of a conventional DMU vehicle. VLRT also claims that the lighter axle loading of the railcars means that closed lines can be revived at lower costs than rebuilding to current heavy rail standards.
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