ROTHERHAM’S Tram Train service will be used as a blueprint for future UK transport schemes – despite having once been branded “a how not-to” guide on expanding transport links.
Rail minister Chris Heaton Harris said the route between Sheffield and Parkgate, which endured a rocky ride as it drifted over time and over budget, would be used as a flagship for light rail transport across the country.
Travelling on tramlines in Sheffield and the rail network in Rotherham, the service has taken 1.5 million passenger journeys since its launch in October 2018.
It has also scored a 100 per cent satisfaction rate in surveys – a stark contrast to MPs’ verdict in 2018 on the scheme’s formulation and construction.
The tram-train was more than two years late to start running and its cost soared from a £15 million projected budget to a whopping £75 million.
In January 2018, MP Sarah Champion called the spiralling costs “absolutely scandal”, while public accounts committee member Meg Hillier branded it “another rail project with all the makings of a how not to seminar for senior civil servants”.
Almost years on, the link is being viewed as an example for other areas to follow, with Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff all drawing up their own plans.
Mr Heaton Harris said: “The South Yorkshire Tram Train is a flagship scheme that has transformed public transport connections in the region and could act as inspiration for similar schemes elsewhere.”
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s executive director, Stephen Edwards, said: “South Yorkshire’s Tram Train pilot - the first of its kind in the country – has demonstrated that this innovative technology has real potential to provide an additional transport option for UK urban areas, bringing with it many benefits to local residents, businesses and communities, such as new direct connections, reduced congestion and improved air quality.
“Our region is leading the way for Tram Train learning and application in the industry.
“We’re proud to have delivered this important pilot locally, and to be part of the future opportunities the pioneering technology could provide - creating solid foundations for further Tram Train service and infrastructure development, both for our region and beyond.”
Ambitions have been set to extend Tram Train to other parts of South Yorkshire giving access to thousands along existing railway lines, including into Barnsley Dearne Valley, Waverley, Doncaster and Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, called for the government to back a £400 million tram renewal programme to unlock the expansion of the Tram Train network.
There are also plans for a permanent 300-space park and ride at Parkgate in Rotherham and a new station and car park at Magna
Providing a comprehensive range of lessons learned to the industry was a key requirement of the pilot, to progress work in future Tram Train schemes.
The scheme’s monitoring tests and day-to-day observations over a two-year period will allow the connectivity and economic potential of the technology to be evaluated.