Monday, October 24, 2022

News: Supertram coming into public control, but there's a £581.5m catch


The running of Supertram services, infrastructure and finances will be controlled by South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) when Stagecoach’s current contract for operation of the network ends.

But SYMCA papers show that the cost to keep the network going for another 30 years is now over £500m. Only the first £105.95m has been secured.

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 has now voted to establish an arm’s length wholly owned subsidiary company to operate the Supertram system from 2024, when Stagecoach's contract ends.

At the same time, the authority has been progressing a project to fund the replacement of tram vehicles, tram tracks, and traction current supply and modernise the depot and passenger facilities.

£105.95m of the full project cost has been allocated to date from the Government's CRSTS fund and other available funding. The first £12.95m is set to fund urgent work on the tram tracks and renew some of the vehicles and to develop the business case for submission to the government in 2023/4.

SYMCA papers state: "Supertram has been in operation for over 30 years, and the application states that large parts of the traction control system are now obsolete and are no longer being manufactured, whilst others do not comply with current regulations. These assets are publicly-owned, and replacing and upgrading the infrastructure will ensure the continuation of the mass transit public transport system.

"Emerging findings from the 2022 Infrastructure survey have been cited as evidencing a need for tram, track and traction current supply replacement on the basis of safety as further deterioration past 2024 could result in tram services being discontinued due to reduced reliability and safety on the tram network. "

A previously preferred option of renewal with improved services 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.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “Our transport 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 and for a generation to come.

“Supertram has been part of South Yorkshire’s fabric for nearly thirty years. In the next thirty years, it will play a critical role in helping us reach our net zero goal. Now, I am pleased to be able to say that it will do so as a publicly owned, publicly operated venture.

“Full public control of Supertram is an exciting new chapter for our tram network. It will help us to develop a long-term, integrated approach that fits with our wider plans for buses, rail, walking and cycling across South Yorkshire.”

A 2018 consultation on the Future of Supertram found strong public support for proposed investment running at nearly ninety-percent (88%) of local residents, businesses, visitors and community groups. The majority of respondents (68.3%) stated they would travel by car if the tram was no longer available.

30% of Sheffield’s businesses and 190,000 people reside within walking distance of a tram stop. Previous work includes a £9.4m track replacement project and complimentary schemes are in development to build additional Supertram Park and Ride sites at Parkgate and Magna in Rotherham, to increase the catchment area.

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

SYMCA 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."

Supertram website

Images: SYPTE


Anonymous,  November 1, 2023 at 12:59 PM  

Update please

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