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Tram Trains Get Green Light

Stagecoach SupertramThe Department for Transport (DfT) has given the go ahead for tram trains to be running in the UK by 2015. This is part of a £58 million investment into a trial scheme that will be launched in South Yorkshire. The project will link the current Sheffield tram network with the rail line to Rotherham via a new 400-metre connection between the tramway and heavy rail close to Meadowhall. The line to Rotherham will be electrified as well.

Under the plans for the project, seven new tram trains will be built and will be suitable for both light and heavy rail use. The top bidder in a procurement competition to supply the tram trains was Vossloh. However, due to the Northern franchise ending before the two year experimental period starts, South Yorkshire PTE will get the contract. It’s expected Stagecoach Supertram will be the operator.

Transport Minister Norman Baker says providing improved connections between the centres and residential areas of Sheffield and Rotherham will help to reinvigorate the local economy. It will encourage people to leave their personal vehicles at home as well, making the trial environmentally friendly. This is great news for South Yorkshire passengers and could potentially benefit people throughout the country wherever tram and rail networks operate together. Tram trains have proven very popular across mainland Europe already, and now they will be able to determine if they can bridge the gap between tram and train in the UK.

Network Rail believes the tram trains can have a substantial part to play in the nation’s transport infrastructure. Route managing director Phil Verster says the vehicles offer a real opportunity to improve transport links in urban areas. The announcement for approved funding is very welcome. They have learned a great deal about how they can benefit the nation’s rail network, and now they can move into the detailed design and delivery of the infrastructure, he added.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) director general David Brown says this is another welcome investment by the government in South Yorkshire’s transport infrastructure. The project will provide vital enhanced local connectivity and show the potential of the new technology to deliver value for money services both locally and across the country, he added.

The DfT says the main objectives of the trial were: to understand the technical and operational obstacles involved so tram trains can be rolled out elsewhere; to understand the costs of operating lighter weight vehicles with track brakes on heavy rail; to find out what passengers think; and to clarify the technical standards required to enable inter-running trams with conventional trains while gaining the biggest cost benefit. The new service will operate at 20-minute headways between Sheffield city centre, Parkgate Retail Park and Rotherham Central station. Ticketing will be integrated with the current tram system. The DfT added that the trial scheme will run for two years with intent on a permanent operation.

Transport for Greater Manchester Committee Chairman Councillor Andrew Fender says he will be watching the trial closely. They have started work to understand if the technology can be deployed within Greater Manchester. Tram trains could combine the advantages of improved access to the city centre provided by their Metrolink tram system and the reach of the rail system into other districts. It has the potential to better public transport and make local rail services more cost-effective, he added.




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