Rail minister Paul Maynard was joined by transport leaders and representatives from a local hospital to launch the first tram train into passenger service on Sheffield’s existing Supertram network.
Tram train passenger services between Sheffield and Rotherham via the rail network will begin next year.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) said the launch of the tram marked an important milestone for the scheme and has allowed passengers in South Yorkshire to be the first in Great Britain to travel on the innovative vehicle.
The controversial and late-running project is set to cost £75m – five times its original budget. A report by the National Audit Office in July revealed that Mr Maynard rejected the advice of civil servants in continuing to fund the experimental scheme
Paul Maynard, third from right, with the two Theos
To celebrate the launch, Stagecoach Supertram and SYPTE named the first tram after Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity’s mascot, ‘Theo’, and invited passengers on the first journey to make a donation to the charity rather than paying a fare.
Mr Maynard said: ‘South Yorkshire's tram train project is the first of its kind in the country and will transform services for passengers, enabling quick and easy movement across the region, reducing journey times and boosting the economy.
‘The first passenger service is a significant milestone for this scheme which remains on track to be completed next year and will improve journeys between Sheffield and Rotherham.’
Tim Bilby, interim managing director for Supertram, said: ‘Following successful completion of a programme of testing, commissioning and training, today is an important day for all passengers travelling across the network and is the next step towards the launch of tram train services to Rotherham next year.’
The tram train pilot will run for two years with a view to permanent operation.