Thursday, February 5, 2015

News: Tram-train trundles on

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The next phase of the innovative Tram-Train trial between Sheffield and Rotherham sees Network Rail consult on its plans for the key piece of track to link the railway and Stagecoach Supertram networks at Tinsley.

The delayed pilot project, first mentioned in 2009, is now set to begin in 2017, running vehicles on both rail and tram networks, using the freight route from Rotherham and then joining the Sheffield Supertram network at Meadowhall South.

Operated by Stagecoach, three trams an hour would run all day from Sheffield city centre through the redeveloped Rotherham Central station to Parkgate retail park.

With funding from the government, the £60m pilot scheme is set to run for two years with a view to permanent operation. If it is successful, it opens the way for tram trains to be introduced in other parts of the country.

The partners in the project are Network Rail, Department for Transport, Northern Rail, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and Stagecoach Supertram. The project was approved by Government in 2012 and forms part of the Sheffield City Region Devolution Deal.

Last year, transport leaders in the Sheffield city region were forced to write to the Transport Secretary to express some concerns about the delays to the project and to seek a way to resolve them.

Now Network Rail has begun consultations and local residents, landowners, rail and tram passengers are invited to comment on the construction plans for 150 metres of track at Tinsley.
Warrick Dent, area director for Network Rail, said: "This is an exciting stage of the project as we consult on plans which, if approved, will turn years of meticulous planning into Britain's first operational Tram Train service. This will improve journeys between Sheffield and Rotherham and boost the local economy by giving improved access to jobs, education and leisure activities as well as directly creating around 35 new jobs.

"Tram Trains are a common sight in Europe and we believe they could help to improve journey options for passengers around our towns and cities. Even though the Tram Trains run elsewhere, we have had many complex issues to work through with our partners in the project to make sure that the vehicles can operate safely in Britain without causing unnecessary disruption to regular tram and rail passengers."

In addition to the construction of the chord, further work to make the scheme a reality will include electrification of the rail line from Meadowhall South to Rotherham Central Station and Rotherham Parkgate. New platforms will also be built at Meadowhall South and at Rotherham Parkgate, and platform's and the revamped Rotherham Central Station will be extended to facilitate the new service. Contractors, Carillion have been working on design and establishment works and the lowering of tracks at three bridges in Rotherham to accommodate overhead power lines.

The vehicles are currently being manufactured by Vossloh in Spain, and work to the tramway and depot to accommodate Tram Trains is well underway. The first of seven Tram Trains will arrive in September 2015 for testing and people will be able to travel on them on the Stagecoach Supertram network before October 2016.

Tram Train passenger services on the rail network will start in early 2017.

Consultation events are being held at The Skills Source Academy in Sheffield on February 6 and 7 and the plans are also on Network Rail's website.

Images: SYPTE / Network Rail

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