Tuesday, October 11, 2022

News: What happens when Stagecoach's contract to run Supertram ends?


The current concession for running the Supertram network in Sheffield and Rotherham ends in 2024 and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) is discussing a future tram operating model.

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

Stagecoach assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the network. Ownership of the asset remained with the authority. The SYMCA board is due to meet next week to discuss a "likely repatriation of operational tram responsibilities."

The MCA wants to establish an arm’s length wholly owned subsidiary company to operate the Supertram system.

The authority had received little interest from the market for a private sector operator to take on the revenue risk and also looked at the possibility of a short term (4/6 years) operating contract with a private sector operator, with the public sector retaining revenue risk.

Hit by reduced patronage during the COVID-19 pandemic and from the closure of parts of the system for renewal works, the network is "currently running at significant losses."

Board papers show that "the costs of supporting tram operations upon the end of the current concession in 2024 have now been modelled into the budget, showing initial subsidy requirements of c. £7m p/a reducing over time. These forecasts remain very sensitive to energy price inflation."

Another issue is that the tram infrastructure and vehicles are nearing the end of their economic life and the renewal programme would see disruption to operations. The MCA has secured c.£100m of capital from DfT to commence this programme of works but a full renewal would cost over £400m.

A previously discussed preferred option included a new fleet of 28 trams, to provide an enhanced service (up to 7.5 trams per hour; further rail and track renewals; improved passenger facilities; the refurbishment and extension of the depot; renewal of control, signalling and communications systems and; renewed and enlarged power supply.

The MCA is in the process of submitting a business case to DfT for further funding.

Back in 2015, Rothbiz revealed that SYPTE still has a deficit of £30.5m on its general reserve budget with a significant part of this relating to capital expenditure incurred by the PTE as part of the construction of the original Sheffield tram network.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said long-term plans for the network’s future must work for the whole of the region:

“Supertram has been part of our region’s fabric for nearly thirty years. It’s iconic to South Yorkshire and plays a critical role in helping us reach our net zero goal. But with that legacy, parts of the system are nearing the end of their design life, and – in the aftermath of the pandemic - passengers are using services differently.

“Our ambitions - for how our communities get to jobs or education, and how they visit family and friends - must work for the whole of our region for a generation to come.

“That is why we are reviewing the funding and future of our region’s tram network. I am excited to propose public sector operation as the next stop on Supertram’s journey. This will help us to develop a long-term approach that integrates Supertram into our wider plans for public transport across South Yorkshire.”

Supertram website

Images: Stagecoach


Jonathan Hague August 9, 2023 at 3:25 AM  

I can't wait to see new 28 trams in future

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