Transportation in the central English town of Dudley is about to experience a revolution. In a joint partnership with Warwick University’s Warwick Manufacturing Group, the Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council is working to develop a very light railway (VLR), marking the first time that Dudley will be connected to the national railway system in five decades.

As of this year, plans to revive passenger rail to the town of Dudley have come with the city’s joint effort to develop what is called very light rail, the next generation of light rail technology. The technology is similar to the single-truck Birney Safety Car of the 1920s in that it will provide low-cost passenger transport. The first railway car will be bi-directional, measure 18-meters-long (59 feet), and carry up to 120 passengers.

The train’s design will be based on the existing PPM Class 139 rail car currently operated by Pre-Metro Operations. According to Railway Technology, the train will feature a self-powered car that will be comprised of an integral hybrid propulsion and kinetic energy recovery system in addition to a modular and composite body shell design.

Alongside boasting the first-of-its-kind VLR technology, the Dudley light rail station will host a research center that will be built on two kilometers (1.2 miles) of unused railway tracks. The VLR research center will be comprised of a series of conference rooms, educational, and workshop facilities, in addition to incubator units and a research center. Ian Kettle, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, said to Global Railway News that: “If given the go ahead, the innovation hub will put Dudley at the forefront of the world’s development of very light rail technology.”


An artist’s rendering of the proposed center. (CC: Cullinan Studio)

The cost of constructing the VLR and its accompanying center amounts to approximately £29 million ($40.8 million). The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership has given Dudley Council about £18 million ($25.05 million) towards the total cost of the project. The plan has been underway since 2014 and the first testable train is expected to be ready by this year.

In the years following the World War Era, operation of the Dudley station fell into decline, closing to passengers in 1962. Freight operations continued well into the 1980s, coming to complete closure by 1989. If the VLR train planned for Dudley is to follow through, this will be the first time the town has been served by passenger rail since the 1960s.

Last year, the American City of Seattle announced plans to construct a light rail that will float 200 meters (656 feet) above Lake Washington.