Transport minister Andrew Jones MP has today unveiled the UK's first tram-train in Sheffield, where it will run on both commuter rail services and the city's Supertram network.
The new vehicles will enable passengers to make through journeys between tram stops and conventional rail stations on a thrice-hourly service running between Sheffield to Rotherham from early 2017.
The tram-trains will undergo thorough real-world testing before being introduced initially in Summer 2016 onto the city's tram network. where they will deliver additional capacity during peak travel periods.
The UK's first tram train
The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Department for Transport, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), Network Rail, Stagecoach Supertram and Northern Rail. January 2016 will see the start of preparatory work on readying the tram tracks, to be followed in the spring by the construction of a 'chord' link between these and the commuter rail network.
The service will initially run for two years, for assessments of passenger reactions and numbers, reliability and operating costs, before being confirmed as a regular feature of the local transport array.
Speaking at the unveiling, SYPTE executive director, Stephen Edwards, looked forward to the opportunity to 'test whether the technology could be used elsewhere'.
Mr Jones saw the service as a boost to 'rebalancing the economy' and to 'the success of the Northern Powerhouse'.
Long-term aims include assessing the feasibility, and safety considerations, of running lighter weight rolling stock on the national rail network, alongside both heavy rail passenger and freight services, with appropriate changes to technical standards.
Spain-based manufacturer Vossloh states that the vehicles have the signalling, power supply, control, wheel profile and telecommunications capabilities to run on both sets of tracks, and are ‘future-proofed’ for higher voltage rail lines.
Future works to make the scheme a reality include:
- December 2015: Tram Train vehicle testing begins
- January 2016: Supertram tracks prepared for Tram Train
- Spring 2016: Construction of track to link the tram network to the train line
- Summer 2016: Three Tram Trains introduced on the Supertram network
- Autumn 2016: New platforms built at Rotherham Station and Parkgate
- Winter 2016: Completion and electrification of the Tram Train network
- Early 2017: Tram Train passenger services begin