Tram Trains pilot to go ahead in South Yorkshire

17 May 2012  •  Source: Department for Transport (DfT)

The Tram Train concept is to be piloted between Sheffield and Rotherham, as the first step to its possible wider adoption around the country.

Transport Minister Norman Baker today gave the green light to a £58m Tram Train pilot scheme in South Yorkshire. New vehicles will operate from 2015 on Sheffield’s Supertram network and on part of the national rail network, which will be adapted to allow seamless travel from one to the other.

Tram Train can assist city economies by increasing capacity and releasing space at mainline stations for other commuters or improved long distance services. It can reinvigorate suburban rail routes and bring passengers right into city centre destinations, creating growth and cutting carbon.

Announcing the pilot, Norman Baker said:

“Tram Trains have already proved hugely popular on the Continent. Now we will be able to test whether they can bridge the gap between tram and train networks in this country.

“We will carefully monitor customer satisfaction, passenger demand levels, reliability and the operating and maintenance costs. If Tram Train proves itself in South Yorkshire, I don’t doubt that there will be others interested in introducing this technology elsewhere in the UK.”

The pilot will determine the practical and operational issues of Tram Train operation in the UK. The knowledge that we will obtain will be shared with the promoters of other schemes.

The pilot requires the electrification of a stretch of track between Sheffield and Rotherham and the construction of 400 metre link between Supertram and Network Rail infrastructure.

Three services an hour will operate all day every day from Parkgate Retail Park in Rotherham, travelling through Rotherham Central Station and joining up to the existing Stagecoach Supertram network at Meadowhall, where the services will then continue onwards to Sheffield City Centre.

The Tram Train concept – a tramcar capable of operating on both a street tramway and the heavy rail network – has been introduced successfully in Germany, France and Spain. In Karlsruhe, the switch to Tram Train operations saw demand increase significantly at a reduced or similar cost to the previous heavy rail services.

Vehicles for the Sheffield-Rotherham pilot will be supplied by the Spanish manufacturer Vossloh in a contract to be let by South Yorkshire PTE. They are expected to be operated by Stagecoach Supertram.

David Brown, SYPTE’s Director General, said:

“We welcome the announcement today by the Minister confirming approval of the funding for the Sheffield /Rotherham Tram Train project. It is further welcome investment by government in the transport infrastructure of South Yorkshire. The project will provide important enhanced local connectivity and demonstrate the potential, both locally and nationally, of this new technology to deliver value for money services.”

For the pilot to go ahead, rail infrastructure operator Network Rail will electrify a stretch of track between Sheffield and Rotherham.

Phil Verster, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said:

“Tram Trains offer a real opportunity to improve transport links in urban areas and today’s announcement of funding is extremely welcome.

“We have already learned a significant amount about how a Tram Train could benefit Britain’s rail network. Now we can move into detailed design and delivery of the infrastructure to support this exciting project which will bring lasting benefits to passengers in the Sheffield and Rotherham areas.”

Northern Rail’s Managing Director Ian Bevan said:

“We are working with our partners to pilot Tram Trains on the network as we believe these vehicles can complement heavy rail, particularly in outer urban and semi-rural areas around major cities with an existing tram network. There are lessons to be learned here and Northern cities are among those well placed to benefit from them.”

Margaret Kay, Managing Director of Stagecoach Supertram, said:

“We welcome today’s announcement and look forward to playing an important role in this pilot. Tram Trains offer us the potential to deliver greener, smarter public transport services to even more people. We have a strong track record of providing high quality, good value services to the people of Sheffield day in, day out and we are excited at the prospect of being able to expand our services even further through this ground-breaking project.”

If the pilot is successful, it opens the way for Tram Trains to be introduced in other parts of the country.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said:

“We’ll be watching Sheffield’s Tram Train pilot very closely as we have begun work to understand whether this technology could be deployed within Greater Manchester. Tram Train could combine the advantages of the better access to the city centre our Metrolink tram system provides with the reach of the rail system into neighbouring districts. It has the potential to both improve public transport for passengers while also making our local rail services more cost-effective.”

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