Transport Minister Norman Baker MP was in South Yorkshire today to sign the contracts to deliver the innovative Tram-Train service which will run between Sheffield and Rotherham, the first such service in the UK.
The service will run between Rotherham Parkgate and Sheffield City Centre operating on both the existing tramway and the national rail network. The service will start in early 2016 after the route is upgraded and the new vehicles are delivered. The new Tram-Train vehicles will be supplied by Vossloh. They will be the first in the country to run on both rail and tram networks. The vehicles are dual voltage making them future proofed to cater for any subsequent electrification of the Midland Mainline by being capable of operating at both light and heavy rail operating voltage.
The circa £60 million pilot scheme will provide a boost to the local economy thanks to improved connections across the area and is also expected to create 35 new jobs locally.
Network Rail will build a new link junction and points between the light rail and heavy rail lines near Meadowhall South. The rail line from Meadowhall South to Rotherham Central Station and Rotherham Parkgate will be electrified. New platforms will also be built at Meadowhall South and at Rotherham Parkgate, and Rotherham Central Station’s platforms will be extended to facilitate the new service. Future station options will also be considered.
The first two years of operation will be used to pilot the Tram-Train concept so that the rail industry can understand and assess the technical issues involved in such operations. If the pilot is successful, it could open the way for Tram-Trains to be introduced in other parts of the country.
In addition to the Tram-Train service the project will also deliver a further three vehicles on the existing Sheffield Supertram tram system, which will help to meet demand at peak operating times.
Norman Baker said: "Providing better connections between the heart of Sheffield and Rotherham's centres and residential areas will help to reinvigorate the local economy. It will also encourage people to leave their cars at home.
“Tram-Trains are an innovative and high-capacity transport system which have proved very successful in other European cities.
“We will be monitoring the scheme over the course of the next two years and I look forward to seeing if it would be appropriate to replicate it elsewhere in the UK.”
Cllr Mick Jameson, Chair of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, said: “Today’s signing 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. We are excited to be a project partner in this ground breaking project "
Alan Chaplin, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Rail said: “The signing of this contract is an important milestone towards bringing tram-trains to the communities of South Yorkshire and possibly the UK. We're delighted to be a partner in a project that has the potential to make a real difference to customer journeys and to support the growth of regional economies."
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 is extremely welcome.
“We have already learned a significant amount about how a Tram-Train could benefit Britain’s rail network through the feasibility and design process. Now we can look forward to introducing the vehicles onto the network. We believe this project will bring lasting benefits to passengers in the Sheffield and Rotherham areas.”
Margaret Kay, Managing Director of Stagecoach Supertram, which will operate the new services, said: "Tram-Train offers us the potential to deliver greener, smarter public transport services to even more people. We have a strong track record of providing high quality, good value services to the people of Sheffield day in, day out and we look forward to being able to expand our tram network even further through this ground-breaking project."