The Anonymous Widower

Very Light Rail Research On Track

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

It details the progress on very light rail, which is defined as a vehicle with a weight of less than one tonne per linear metre.

It is a thorough article and very much a must-read.

It also details thirty-five rail routes in the UK and several cities, where the technology could be employed.

Some of the routes mentioned include, ones that I’ve covered on this blog, including.

  • Cromer – Sheringham – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Saxmundham – Aldeburgh – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Coventry – Nuneaton – Part of West Midlands
  • Liskeard – Looe – Part of Great Western
  • Plymouth – Tavistock – Part of Great Western
  • St Erth – St Ives – Part of Great Western
  • Henley-on-Thames – Twyford – Part of Great Western
  • Maidenhead – Marlow – Part of Great Western
  • Slough – Windsor & Eton Central – Part of Great Western
  • Truro – Falmouth- Part of Great Western
  • Watford – St Albans Abbey – Part of London Midland
  • Ashington – Blyth
  • Fleetwood – Poulton-le-Fylde


  1. On reading the full list, I wondered why Greenfood – West Ealing and Southall – Brentford weren’t included, but it’s probably because freight uses the lines.
  2. I particularly like the inclusion of Saxmundham – Aldeburgh and Watford Junction – St. Albans Abbey.

You can understand why the rail leasing company; Eversholt, has got involved, as they must see quite a few possible sales.

There is more information on the concept call Revolution on this page on the Transport Design International web site.

Some points that can be gleaned from this page.

  • One picture shows a coupler on the front of the vehicle. So can they work in multiple?
  • Vehicles will have low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
  • Self-powered vehicles, with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
  • Reduced infrastructure costs for installation, operation and maintenance.

The consortium is also aiming for a sub million pound price tag.


It is a bold plan, which is backed by some large companies and organisations with deep pockets.




January 31, 2020 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,


  1. Run the trains on hydrogen, It’s lighter than air! 😁😁

    Comment by mauricegreed | February 1, 2020 | Reply

  2. I don’t understand the benefits of converting from heavy to light, what does spending that money get you that spending on latest models of rolling stock (and maybe tram-trains) would not?. Especially lines like Cromer-Sheringham which have just received new rolling stock?

    (Yes, I understand that if there was a project to redevelop the Cromer-Sheringham route to serve Holt, Melton Constable and on wards different rolling stock might be useful; and anyway I’m sure the North Norfolk railway would not like their reinstated heavy rail connection to be removed again)

    I didn’t read the source article (needed to register and decided not to bother), I expect that would have told me a bit more about the benefits.

    Comment by MilesT | February 2, 2020 | Reply

    • I have never paid Railway Gazette any money but I may have registered.
      I can see various benefits for lightweight rail vehicles.
      As the vehicles are lighter, they do less damage to the track. Think of the damage heavy trucks do to roads near where you live.
      Network Rail also base their track access charges partially on weight, so the lower the weight, the less costs to the train operator to run the trains.
      Kinetic and potential energy are both proportional to the weight, so the amount of electricity needed to accelerate a train to operating speed is less, if you can reduce the weight. Similarly, if you were running lightweight vehicles up to say Merthyr Tydfil, you’d need less electricity with a lightweight vehicle.
      Build costs will probably be lower as less steel and aluminium will be needed.
      As the article says running lightweight trains on lines with lots of heavy vehicles is not a good idea, in case they hit each other.
      But the reverse is also true. People worry about Street running trams, but lightweight ones might be easier as if they hit a small car, there will be less damage.
      But trains are getting lighter anyway. A five-car Class 378 train weighs 212.8 tonnes, whereas a five-car Class 710 train, that will do the same job on the North London Line will weigh 182 tonnes. The newer train is 15 % lighter.
      If trains are lighter and use less energy, then if they are battery powered smaller batteries will be needed or perhaps hydrogen bus power systems could be squeezed in.
      To take your Cromer-Sheringham example, I can envisage that with appropriate passing loops, a four-train per hour shuttle can be run between the two towns. As Cromer has two platforms, no infrastructure would be required.

      I also notice that Cromer and Sheringham takes just eight minutes. 8 x 8 is 64, so could a single shuttle train, working autonomously like the Docklands Light Railway do the route four times in an hour under computer control? You bet it can!

      Comment by AnonW | February 2, 2020 | Reply

  3. […] sIn Very Light Rail Research On Track, I reviewed an article of the same name on Railway Gazzette […]

    Pingback by Economics Of Very Light Rail Between Cromer And Sheringham « The Anonymous Widower | February 2, 2020 | Reply

  4. […] the Revolution VLR consortium was in its early stages I wrote Very Light Rail Research On Track, based on a Railway Gazette article with the same […]

    Pingback by Prototype Revolution Very Light Rail Vehicle Ready For Testing « The Anonymous Widower | August 12, 2021 | Reply

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