Friday, November 20, 2015

News: Tram train on its way

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The first tram train vehicle is expected in Sheffield next month but delays to the innovative project mean that it won't be running to Rotherham any time soon.

Rothbiz reported in June that the already 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.

With funding from the Government, the £60m pilot scheme is set to run for two years with a view to permanent operation. It is the first of its kind in the UK and if it is successful, it opens the way for tram trains to be introduced in other parts of the country.

Network Rail, the owners and operators of Britain's rail infrastructure, is responsible for construction plans for 170 metres of track at Tinsley to connect the Supertram and railway networks. It has also been getting to grips with some of heavy rail modifications, including power, track modifications, approvals and testing and commissioning. It has meant that projected costs have increased and transport bosses have been frustrated by the delays in updates from Network Rail and revised spend profiles.

This week, the Committee of Public Accounts highlighted severe planning and budgeting failures in Network Rail's current five-year investment programme.

One key milestone is the approval from the Government to construct and operate the new track at Tinsley. Formal approval from the Secretary of State for the Transport & Works Act order was published yesterday.

The decision letter states: "The Secretary of State is satisfied that the scheme would result in local benefits to the economy and communities in Sheffield and Rotherham and would assist in the regeneration of the Lower Don Valley. He accepts that the scheme would improve connectivity between the linked economies of Sheffield and Rotherham and would improve accessibility to job opportunities, healthcare and leisure facilities."

A recent update to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee on the progress of the scheme, states: "The tram vehicles are being manufactured and progressing to programme - delivery of the first unit is expected in December 2015. The SYPTE led works have progressed well but Network Rail elements are behind schedule and being closely monitored by the DfT.

"Members will be aware ... that Network Rail led elements of the project have been further delayed."

The Department for Transport (DfT) is the client in this project, with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) responsible for the delivery of all of the light rail modifications, rail replacement and procurement of the seven vehicles. Network Rail is separately responsible to DfT to deliver the heavy rail modifications required for the project.

Supertram operators have an agreement with SYPTE and will be responsible for operating the service and maintaining the vehicles for a minimum of five years. For the first two years, the pilot period will be fully funded by DfT.

All design work has completed, except Parkgate tramstop connectivity, where the potential for a park and ride and even a new railway station is being examined.

On the modifications to the heavy rail network, contractors, Carillion and Network Rail have agreed a contractual design and implementation programme and preliminary works such as de-vegetation and establishing the site compound have begun.

However, the report adds: "The delivery programme contains several key risks which are closely being monitored by Network Rail and the project team. Heavy Rail approvals, safety verification, product acceptance and general compliance to standards on the Heavy Rail side remains challenging, with the effect on the construction still unknown."

The final stage of modifications to the tram track required to ensure compatibility with the new tram train wheel profile, are due to start shortly. Modifications to the depot have been completed as the the first vehicle is programmed for shipping to the UK from the Spanish factory of Vossloh, in late November 2015 arriving at the depot on December 1 2015.

Network Rail website
SYPTE website

Images: SYPTE / Vossloh

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