The first tram-train in revenue service in the UK has had its first departure at 10.35 from Rotherham Parkgate on the 25th of October. The opening of the Sheffield – Rotherham tram-train route marks the culmination of a pilot programme more than a decade in the making which aims to evaluate the potential for tram-train operation in Britain.
A new 160m chord links the Sheffield Supertram light rail network to the national rail network at Tinsley, near the Meadowhall tram terminus. There, tram-trains use an upgraded and electrified section of former freight-only line to serve the existing station at Rotherham Central and a new stop at Rotherham Parkgate.
Developed by a partnership of transport authority SYPTE, infrastructure manager Network Rail, Stagecoach Supertram and franchised train operator Arriva Rail Northern, the government-funded project was first announced in September 2009 and approved by ministers in May 2012 with an expected infrastructure cost of £18.7 million and opening envisaged for 2015. However, by July 2017 the cost had increased to £75.1 million.
“At times people forgot that this is a technology trial planned to last two years, and it became a more political and commercial programme. When we are doing something as innovative as this, there are always going to be problems,” commented Network Rail’s London North East Route Managing Director Rob McIntosh.
In total, three tram-train services an hour will be available from Sheffield Cathedral tram stop to Rotherham Parkgate. “We are very optimistic about the future of trams in Sheffield. We have two years of funding from the Department for Transport for the Rotherham tram-train trial but we fully expect it to continue until at least 2024 which is the end of the Stagecoach operating concession,” said SYPTE Executive Director Steve Edwards.
Although the Sheffield scheme marks the first application of tram-trains in Britain, a section of the Tyne & Wear metro network has light rail cars sharing main line tracks around Sunderland.