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A glimpse into the future of rail travel in the Midlands

Dudley | News | Published:

Innovative by design and ground-breaking by technology - this is what the first Very Light Rail station in the Black Country will look like.

A group of passengers gather to board a light rail train while testing is carried out on trains of the future inside a three-storey research centre at the site.

The large centre will feature offices, meeting rooms, track area and a top-floor museum for visitors interested in the new type of rail system which will be rolled out across the country.

Very light rail is a different transport system from trains and trams. It is powered by electricity, but does not require overhanging power lines.

These images show what the reopened Dudley railway station, rail service to Dudley Port railway station and very light rail innovation centre will look like.

The two bodies behind the £20million project, Dudley Council and Warwick Manufacturing Group, hope to have it opened in under five years, with work potentially starting next year.

The platform and an exterior shot of the centre

The service will use a disused rail route linking the town centre with Dudley Port railway station.

It was last used as a freight line in 1993. Dudley railway station, off Castle Hill, closed to passengers in 1964.

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Dudley Council invited Warwick Manufacturing Group to open the centre and line as the group searched for a service line to test the latest very light rail technology.

Roddy Langmuir, from London-based Cullinan Studio, was one of the architects behind the plan.

He said: "It's an innovation centre. By definition is it about testing new ideas and attracting forward thinking minds - my hope is the design does that.

"The project will use a former freight route which is has been taken over by greenery over the years.

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"The rail platform will be access down the stairs or lift from a pedestrian bridge from the main road.

"People can then get the join the national line at Dudley Port."

The station will be on land near the Castle Gate Island, at the bottom of Castle Hill, between a new access road to new car park serving Dudley Zoo and Tipton Road.

The pedestrian bridge will go from a bus stop on Tipton Road to the end of the access road, near to the rear of Dudley Hippodrome.

Mr Langmuir said: "I think the project will be fantastic for Dudley.

"You go to the town and you see the great opportunity the rail connection would bring.

"The attractions are there, this would enable easier access to people from the main line."

He added: "It's not just the rail line, this would also see a new industry in the town with an innovation centre opened to develop this exciting light rail technology.

"I would hope to see other towns benefit from old freight lines opened up to similar light rail vehicles."

The centre would have 45 people employed there. As well as running the line to Dudley Port, a test track will be set up to test the developing vehicles.

However, the project depends on funding coming in.

Bids are being made to the government's Regional Growth Fund and to the European Union.

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for transportation, said: "This is tremendous news.

"Tremendous news that Dudley, with its proud manufacturing history, is once more going to be at the forefront of developing new technology as the innovation centre will be where the trains are developed.

"It is fantastic news for the people of Dudley that within the next few years we will once more link the town to the national rail network.

"This will support the current multi-million pound investment in regeneration in the town centre, will have positive impacts on the economy of Dudley and the Black Country and has the potential to bring in tens of thousands more visitors to the tourist attractions and the town.

"In the longer term we could re-open the line back into Dudley near the bus station and through to Brierley Hill and Stourbridge."

The technology used with very light rail is a development on what is currently used by the Stourbridge Shuttle.

The rail bus takes passengers from Stourbridge Junction to Stourbridge town centre, travelling no faster than 20mph over a track which is less than one mile.

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