FROM the Cathedral in Sheffield to Parkgate, the UK’s very first Tram Train has finally been delivered for the people of South Yorkshire.
Delivering this frequent, fast and reliable connection has presented us — it will come as no surprise — with many challenges.
This is an ambitious pilot project that aimed to link heavy and light rail infrastructures and systems.
It has demanded patience, ingenuity and resilience and was always going to be a huge challenge.
Unique schemes, by their very nature, force us to confront unique obstacles and push us to solve unique problems.
And solve them we have. Everyone involved in this project to deliver the new service has remained committed to its success.
The Department for Transport itself has put in more than £95 million to fund the seven new tram train vehicles and the improvements to both the tram and heavy rail networks to allow this service to operate.
But this has been very much a partnership, with Stagecoach, Northern, Network Rail and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive working together to make it a reality for passengers.
The incredible results of that commitment are now for all to see.
It has taken real grit, but we were determined this would never hit the buffers.
The Tram Train is a pioneering, first-of-its-kind project which the people of Sheffield and Rotherham can rightly feel proud of.
It will create better connections between the two historic communities, reinvigorate the local economy, bring new jobs for drivers and conductors and benefit our environment by taking cars off the road, cutting traffic and emissions.
The innovative technology developed for this scheme means the service is seamless and smooth, able to switch from the tram track in Sheffield to the national rail lines in Rotherham.
Through the brand new link at Tinsley Chord, passengers now have a 25 minute journey to work, school, college, home and shopping centres.
The technology, planning and construction of this ground-breaking project has set in place the foundations for similar schemes across the country.
Combined with the extensive testing of the brand new Class 399 trains that will run on the network, this is truly a blueprint for new schemes set to transform passenger services in towns and cities up and down the country.
But it is here in Sheffield and Rotherham that we have it first, and we are grateful to local residents, passengers, commuters and businesses for their incredible patience and resilience in seeing this finally delivered.
The very first public tram train left Sheffield Cathedral for Rotherham Parkgate just after 9.30am today.
It’s now time for passengers to give their verdict on the new line.
For the duration of the two-year pilot, customer satisfaction and passenger numbers will the key to its success.
I am confident they will welcome it enthusiastically.
See the Tram Train in action