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Rail vehicle revolution for tomorrow’s transport networks

Rail vehicle revolution for tomorrow’s transport networks

TRB Lightweight Structures is delighted to be part of the team behind Revolution VLR (Very Light Rail), an innovative passenger vehicle designed to simplify extension of existing rail networks and allow the reopening of historical lines. TRB worked closely with consortium leader Transport Design International (TDI) on the vehicle’s composite bodyshell design, manufacturing the modular, one-piece structural panels that form both the inner and outer walls. 

The design objectives for the Revolution VLR were to engineer a substantially lighter vehicle offering reduced energy consumption, while adhering to rigorous rail industry safety standards and governmental decarbonisation goals. To achieve these aims, the vehicle used modular panels composed of moulded carbon fibre laminates with a recycled foam core. TRB’s expertise in the tooling and materials processing ensured a high quality, lightweight solution that met the design brief without compromising structural strength. The project also took advantage of a unique polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) bioresin – a sustainable alternative to phenolic resins derived from a byproduct of sugar cane refining. Combined with a host of other innovative technologies, this modular construction resulted in the Revolution VLR Demonstrator being 40 per cent lighter than traditional heavy rail vehicles of similar capacity. This means that the single-carriage vehicle can run on reinstated existing lines, or new routes using lighter weight track infrastructure.

Lyndon Newman, Lead Engineer at TRB Lightweight Structures, explained: “Our lightweight structural modular panels not only contributed substantially to a 16-tonne reduction in total weight, but were also obtained from a sustainable source. This will significantly contribute to government commitments to decarbonisation in transport.”

Paul Salkeld, Design Director at Transport Design International, added: “The team at TRB worked hard to meet all the technical requirements of the project, producing lightweight, modular body panels that adhered to strict tolerances for the Revolution VLR Demonstrator. This not only allows construction of a lighter vehicle, but also assists in the replacement of parts for general maintenance requirements, which is a key consideration for vehicle longevity, given a 30 to 40 year lifespan.”