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Public Transportation

The UK’s first ‘Future Mobility Zone’ was established in the West Midlands and positions the region as the UK’s location for trialling future and autonomous technologies. This brings together future innovative transport schemes, including alternative fuel, electric vehicles, electric bicycles, eSooters, connected and autonomous vehicles and other technologies and services which can be trialled locally. 

Coventry City is one of only two cities in the UK to receive government funding to introduce a whole electric bus fleet, and ambitions are to roll this programme across the region to support the zero carbon ambitions. 

The region is also at the centre of an expanding network of Light Rail through the West Midlands Metro; with up to 50 new trams planned as part of an £83.5m investment which will also create opportunities in new control, communications and passenger information systems. 

Air-One will be one of only four ‘urban airports’ supporting electric drone technology for product distribution and ultimately passenger transportation. 

There are more people employed in the rail industry in the West Midlands Combined Authority area than any other combined authority area, with 40,000 people employed in the industry. Innovation too is well represented in the region, in both hydrogen propulsion and Very Light Railway systems. 

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham has been researching different options for fuelling rail vehicles. In 2020, the University in partnership with Porterbrook launched the UK’s first Hydrogen train, the HydroFLEX. The University also has a Centre of Excellence in Rail Decarbonisation, with expertise in sustainable traction systems, power electronics and energy, climate adaptation and rail resilience, and aerodynamics, and Porterbrook has announced a £1bn capital investment into battery and hydrogen power. 

As with the automotive sector, lighter vehicles reduce energy demand, and the West Midlands is leading the way in developing light weight rail solutions. The Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) in Dudley, which includes a 2.2km test track and research labs, is a facility dedicated to supporting the development and growth of the VLR industry. Leading companies in the sector include Severn-Lamb, designing and building ultra-light rail cars, and Vivarail, developing rechargeable electric trains for the replacement of diesel engines where line electrification is unviable.