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Tram-train pilot for South Yorkshire

New tram-trains are set to be piloted in South Yorkshire, transport minister Norman Baker has confirmed.

The £58m scheme will see tram-trains run on both rail and tram networks between Sheffield and Rotherham.

The pilot will involve the electrification of a stretch of track as well as the construction of a 400m line linking the tramway to the train tracks. From 2015, the vehicles will operate on Sheffield’s Supertram network as well as part of the national rail network.

There are expected to be three services an hour, all day every day, and the pilot will last for two years, with a view to permanent operation. If the pilot is a success, it could be rolled out in different cities. The scheme is expected to create 35 new jobs.

The core objectives of the tram-train pilot are to understand the changes to industry costs of operating a lighter weight vehicle with track brakes on the national rail network, determine changes to technical standards required, gauge passenger perception and understand the technical and operational challenges involved in the project.

Baker said: “Providing better connections between Sheffield and Rotherham’s city centres and residential areas will help to reinvigorate the local economy. This is great news for passengers in South Yorkshireand 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, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s director general, said: “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.”

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said the tram-trains offer “a real opportunity to improve transport links in urban areas”.

“There are lessons to be learned here and Northern cities are among those well placed to benefit from them,” Northern Rail’s managing director Ian Bevan added.

Margaret Kay, managing director of Stagecoach Supertram, said: “Tram-trains offer us the potential to deliver greener, smarter public transport services to even more people.”

Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “We’ll be watchingSheffield’s tram-train pilot very closely as we have begun work to understand whether this technology could be deployed within Greater Manchester.”

Stephen Clark, rail programme director at TfGM, welcomed the announcement at yesterday’s ‘Devolving rail to the regions’ conference atManchesterTown Hall. He said: “That’s great news for places in the north ofEnglandthat might be able to take advantage of that technology over the next 10 years or so, and that may be one way in which we can reduce some of the costs of running rail in the north ofEngland.”

Other speakers and delegates also welcomed the news – although some suggested that the pilot would have been progressed much more quickly if powers and funding were truly devolved, instead of local areas having to wait on central government.

The announcement has been a long time coming: it was on March 24, 2011 when the DfT confirmed funding for SYPTE, Northern and Network Rail to work on the tram-train pilot business case. 

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