Friday, January 27, 2012

News: Long term hope for tram-train project


Innovative tram-trains running between Rotherham and Sheffield could become a long term operation rather than a trial.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), Northern Rail and Network Rail have been working together on a pilot project, first announced in 2009, that received the backing of the government with a £150,000 grant in 2011.

Passengers could see tram-trains running between Sheffield and Rotherham on the current freight route from Rotherham and then joining the Sheffield Supertram network at Meadowhall South. Three trams an hour would run all day from Sheffield city centre through Rotherham Central to Parkgate retail park.

The pilot project would inform the government on the use of the tram-trains as a cheaper alternative in extending transport networks. It could lead to tram-trains being introduced in South Yorkshire in 2014.

An update from the SYPTE to the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority indicates that running a trial would require significant investment of up to £55m.

As the project progressed it became apparent that the feasibility of a longer term passenger service between Sheffield and Rotherham should be considered.

With agreement from the Department for Transport (DfT), partners have developed a business case that combines the tram-train trial with the project to increase capacity on the existing Supertram network in Sheffield.

The £18m project to introduce four new tram vehicles secured £12.3m from the DfT last year. To save on costs, the vehicle requirement for both aspects of the combined project would be met by one supplier with the same vehicle design.

Using seven additional vehicles, the routes would be operated by Stagecoach with special vehicles travelling every 20 mins from Parkgate to Sheffield Cathedral via Rotherham Central and Meadowhall South.

An £8.5m redevelopment of Rotherham Central is nearing completion.

The operation would need subsidising in the short term and additional stations along the route (such as Templeborough) is not part of the scheme at this stage but "these will be costed options to be considered at a later date."

The SYPTE added: "There would be significant new investment required on the heavy rail side. This includes new platforms at Meadowhall South, Rotherham Central and Parkgate. The line from Meadowhall South to Parkgate will require electrification and new track work is required at Meadowhall South and Parkgate. The cost of this infrastructure investment is in the region of £15m - £20m."

The signs from the government are positive. The business case for the investment was taken to DfT's Rail Investment Board in December 2011 and approved. A decision by ministers and the Treasury is expected soon.

SYPTE website



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