The Anonymous Widower

Very Light Rail – A Revolution

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Engineer.

It is a good explanation of what very light rail is all about and the design concepts behind the first vehicle, which is called Revolution.

My feeling is that Any Very Light Rail vehicle should be able to run a short branch line route as capably as a Class 153 train.

But hopefully with better passenger and driver comfort and facilities.

  • The speed of Revolution is 65 mph and that of a Class 153 train is 75 mph, so is that close enough?
  • I would hope that Revolution has better acceleration as it has an electric transmission.
  • Revolution has 56 seats and a wheelchair space and is PRM-compliant, whereas the Class 153 train has a few more seats and only some are PRM-compliant.
  • Revolution has wi-fi and power sockets and most Class 153 trains don’t.

The quality of the seats and the view from the trains will probably be the tie-breaker.

The article doesn’t say, but surely they would find more applications, if they could run in pairs, do they might be able to replace a two-car Class 150 train.

Reading the whole article gives me the impression, that the designers have done thorough job to design a lightweight train, that both passengers and drivers will like.

I will reserve my judgement until I see and ride one of these trains.

An Automated Shuttle Train

In An Automated Shuttle Train On The Greenford Branch Line, I proposed an automated shuttle on the Greenford branch.

The Greenford Branch Line has the following features.

  • It is 2.5 miles long.
  • It is double-track.
  • It is not electrified.
  • There is a single platform station at both ends with three intermediate stations.
  • The service frequency is two tph.
  • Trains take 11-12 minutes to go between the two terminals.
  • Freight trains also use the line.

To run the ideal four tph, trains would need to do a round trip between West Ealing and Greenford in fifteen minutes.

Suppose the Revolution vehicle was automated with the driver having a supervisory role.

  • The train would shuttle between West Ealing and Greenford, leaving each station, when it was ready, so as many trips as possible were performed.
  • On seeing a green signal, the driver would tell the train to proceed top the other station, if they knew it to be safe.
  • If a freight train needed to come through, the shuttle train would stay in either West Ealing or Greenford stations out of the way protected by the signalling, until the freight train had cleared the track.
  • Freight trains and the shuttle would never be on the same piece of track at the same time, which would greatly aid safety.

I suspect that at least three trains would go between the two stations in every hour, with perhaps four in the Peak.

January 11, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,


  1. The success of seeing this vehicle on any track controlled by Network Rail will depend on how far RSSB can accept under what circumstances non-compliances are in order and what reliefs might be required for mixed traffic operation. Although there are differences in wheel profiles between light and heavy rail, which can be lead to derailment on shared track, I think this can be dealt with. As Martin Dobell indicates in the article structural strength and crashworthiness will therefore be central to the acceptance of both types of vehicle operating on shared infrastructure. Clearly if the requirements of vehicle structures, interior crashworthiness and couplers whether they be for passenger, freight or light rail and tram aren’t fully reconciled then the vehicle will have to be treated as a tram or light metro. In practice we see this with South Yorkshire and Manchester’s Metrolink and the way they are segregated from heavy rail.
    You can be achieve partition by physical separation where branch lines enter the mainline, temporal separation so that, say VLRVs use a freight route in the day and freight trains operate outside these hours, or by spatial means (signalling).
    Since Karlsruhe introduced the concept of mixed running back in the early 1990s we’ve had a lot of time to develop effective solutions. This should serve the future of the VLRV well in expanding rail use providing the money’s available for infrastructure costs.

    Comment by fammorris | January 12, 2022 | Reply

    • The RSSB were very slow in accepting the concept of tram-trains in Sheffield, but in the end they seem to be working well. There is also the Cardiff Valleys Lines, which will have tram-trains and other trains sharing.

      There are several routes where surely VLR is possible because no other trains use the line. The Greenford and St. Ives and Romford and Upminster branches for a start. All three could be run with an automated shuttle which had a timetable of first train at 0530 and last at midnight. If one car wasn’t enough, two or more could surely be run together.

      Comment by AnonW | January 12, 2022 | Reply

  2. […] Very Light Rail – A Revolution, I suggested that automated shuttle trains could be run between West Ealing and Greenford on the […]

    Pingback by Does Anybody Know Of A Shuttle Train Without A Timetable? « The Anonymous Widower | January 12, 2022 | Reply

  3. Is this too many passengers/too long for a parry people mover?

    Is the number of passengers too few for an airport style people mover (electric like at Gatwick/Stansted, or cable hauled used many places worldwide)?

    Comment by MilesT | January 12, 2022 | Reply

  4. The Parry People Mover doesn’t seem to have been used for any other route. I wonder why?

    Comment by AnonW | January 12, 2022 | Reply

  5. […] Surely,the ideal train for this route would be one of the very light rail trains, proposed for Coventry by Warwick University, that I wrote about in Very Light Rail – A Revolution. […]

    Pingback by A Bid For The Return Of The Tweed Valley Railway Line Is At An Early Stage « The Anonymous Widower | February 3, 2022 | Reply

  6. And it’s not just happening here in the UK, 5 light rail vehicle projects announced by SNCF

    Comment by fammorris | April 12, 2022 | Reply

    • Thanks!

      Comment by AnonW | April 12, 2022 | Reply

  7. I am really interested in this technology. I believe the VLR vehicles could be modified with the addition of solar cells on the roof to give more range to the hybrid system or to provide power to internal electrical systems such as lighting or HVAC. It could also be a solution to some developing countries with existing out of use and deteriorating rail infrastructure due to the prohibitive cost of new rolling stock (assuming the cost is much cheaper than typical light rail).

    Comment by Nugent W Laing | May 12, 2022 | Reply

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