Tuesday, July 16, 2019

News: £408m - the cost of Supertram renewal revealed


Transport bosses in the Sheffield city region (SCR) have revealed that the up front capital cost of renewing the existing Supertram network is over £400m.

Rothbiz reported last year on consultation in connection to developing a business case that will be submitted to the Department for Transport to support the funding of any renewal works. As part of this business case all possible options were explored, and consulted on and then a preferred option for the system needs to be submitted.

Now a report to the SCR gives an update on the business case and has set the financial implications for the preferred option of renewing the network and vehicles between 2024-28 at c.£408m.

Opened in 1994, Sheffield's Supertram system cost £240m and now serves major residential and employment sites in Sheffield. A delayed tram-train pilot project brought new vehicles to Rotherham in 2018.

Stagecoach's operating contract runs until 2024. Stagecoach assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the network. Ownership of the asset remains with SYPTE. Early marketing testing has commenced as to the interest from other operating companies who may be considering a future bid to operate the network.

The SCR is prioritising the delivery of a permanent tram-train service between Sheffield and Rotherham and future proofing the existing Supertram network.

The renewal of the asset is also considered essential should the region look to exploit and expand the current network beyond its current operations. The success of the tram-train pilot could indicate that this technology can be applied to extend services to other parts of the region, such as Waverley/AMID, Barnsley or Doncaster.


Following the essential works carried out in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018, engineering works are continuing to replace track that was laid in the 1990's but the asset is approaching the end of its economic life. The preferred option for renewal would allow Supertram to operate until at least 2054.

It was expected that following a submission to the Government in October 2019, the renewal project would receive "Programme Entry" by March 2020 with a full business case submitted by April 2022. However the initial targeted pot of transport funding no longer exists.

Tim Taylor, director of customer services at SYPTE, said in the report: "Whilst ongoing general maintenance costs are paid for by the current tram operator (Stagecoach), there is no funding currently in place for the long-term renewal of the system. Investment is therefore needed to allow the Supertram network to operate for at least another 30 years, and central government funding will be required to support this.

"A recent meeting with DfT confirmed that projects such as Supertram renewal do not have a "home" elsewhere within another DfT programme i.e. there is no other existing funding stream which could fund the renewal project.

"It has therefore been agreed that a direct approach to Treasury (supported by DfT), as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) process as the most appropriate means of securing the necessary funding. This is in keeping with the approach taken recently by Nexus (the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive) for the renewal of their Metro train fleet."
Other options have to be considered and these include refurbishing the existing fleet of trams, closing and decommissioning the network and replacing the tram network with a Bus Rapid Transit network.

If the preferred option goes forward, a local contribution of 7-10% (£29-42m) would be expected. This has been a thorny issue for council leaders in Doncaster and Barnsley who haven't wanted to see costs passed on to local authorities.

Supertram website
SYPTE website

Images: Volker Rail


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