Thursday, June 16, 2016

News: Tram-train start date still unknown

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As the new tram-train vehicles are tested on the Supertram network in Sheffield, it is still not known when the innovative system will reach Rotherham.

The delayed pilot project, first mentioned in 2009, will see vehicles running 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.

Rothbiz reported in March that there had been further delays to the tram train project caused by Network Rail.

With the first vehicles delivered to the Stagecoach depot in Sheffield, the SYPTE warned last year that there is a danger that the new vehicles could be sat at the Nunnery depot with the warranty running out whilst Network Rail completes work to its lines.

The new vehicles, built by Vossloh in Spain, have been spotted testing during the small hours of the morning on Sheffield's network.

When questioned by Greg Mulholland, the Leeds MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Light Rail Group, Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport, said this week: "The Department for Transport and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, the joint funders of the tram train pilot project, have been advised that Network Rail has initiated a review of the current programme of works needed to adapt their infrastructure to operate the tram train vehicles between Meadowhall South and Rotherham Parkgate.

"The Department understands that Network Rail has encountered significant issues with the approval of new bespoke electrification equipment needed to operate the tram train vehicles. The joint funders are clearly disappointed by this further delay.

"The current programme showed delivery of these works by early spring 2017, however until the outcome of the Network Rail review is known, no further details can be provided."

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Operated by Stagecoach, three trams an hour are set to run all day from Sheffield city centre through Rotherham Central to Parkgate retail park. The running time from Parkgate to Sheffield Cathedral will be about 25 minutes.

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.

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 meant that projected costs have increased and transport bosses have been frustrated by the delays in updates from Network Rail and revised spend profiles.

A bid is being prepared in order to secure Government funding to replace the existing fleet of Supertram vehicles. The scheme also forms the foundation to allow future tram/tram train based mass transit extensions to support key growth areas across the Sheffield city region.

SYPTE website

Images: SYPTE

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