Green light for Rotherham tram-train project

The government has confirmed £58m for a new tram-train project between Sheffield and Rotherham, the first project of its kind in the country.

The pilot scheme will see flexible vehicles run on both rail and tram networks, using the 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 the redeveloped Rotherham Central station to Parkgate retail park.

The project would include major works such as the electrification of a stretch of track between Sheffield and Rotherham and the construction of 400 metre line linking the tramway to the train tracks.

Additional stations along the route (such as Templeborough) are not part of the scheme at this stage but are being considered for a later date.

The pilot will run for two years with a view to permanent operation.

The scheme would improve connectivity within the labour market and support economic growth by making better use of the existing tram network and free up capacity at Sheffield Rail Station by diverting services onto the tram network. The project is also expected to create 35 new jobs locally.

If the pilot is successful, it opens the way for tram-trains to be introduced in other parts of the country. The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) estimate that the trial will generate potential industry benefits in excess of £38m.

Norman Baker, transport minister, said: “Providing better connections between Sheffield and Rotherham’s city centres and residential areas will help to reinvigorate the local economy. It will also encourage people to leave their cars at home, making this pilot environmentally friendly.

“This is great news for passengers in South Yorkshire and potentially it could benefit people across the country wherever tram and rail networks exist together.

“Tram-trains have already proven hugely popular on the Continent. Now we will be able to test whether they can bridge the gap between tram and train networks in this country.”

David Brown, director general at the SYPTE, said: “We welcome the announcement today by the Minister confirming approval of the funding for the Sheffield / Rotherham tram train project. It is further welcome investment by government in the transport infrastructure of South Yorkshire.

“The project will provide important enhanced local connectivity and demonstrate the potential, both locally and nationally, of this new technology to deliver value for money services.”

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.

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.

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Tram Trains offer a real opportunity to improve transport links in urban areas and today’s announcement of funding is extremely welcome.

“We have already learned a significant amount about how a tram-train could benefit Britain’s rail network. Now we can move into detailed design and delivery of the infrastructure to support this exciting project which will bring lasting benefits to passengers in the Sheffield and Rotherham areas.”

Ian Bevan, managing director at Northern Rail, added: “We are working with our partners to pilot Tram Trains on the network as we believe these vehicles can complement heavy rail, particularly in outer urban and semi-rural areas around major cities with an existing tram network. There are lessons to be learned here and Northern cities are among those well placed to benefit from them.”

The new tram-train vehicles, provided by German company, Vossloh, will operate from 2015.

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