Up for debate: Star readers quiz managing director on changes they want to see

Margaret Kay, managing director of Supertram. Picture: Andrew Roe
Margaret Kay, managing director of Supertram. Picture: Andrew Roe
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The Star put Supertram boss Margaret Kay in the hot-seat to answer questions from readers.

Supertram boss Margaret Kay sat in the hot seat to answer questions from Star readers last week.

Questions on everything from expanding Sheffield’s network, to fare-dodging, and cycling accidents to parking at tram stops came in.

Previous Sheffield Q&A sessions have quizzed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore.

Email news@thestar.co.uk with suggestions of who you would like to see questioned next.

Visit www.thestar.co.uk to read more questions and answers from Ms Kay.

Question: Michael Barge - Would you support an extra loop serving Weston Park, Broomhill and the Hallamshire hospital?

Answer: I think we would generally be very supportive of actually any of the tram system being extended. As you know we have tram train coming up in 2017.

So anything that will increase the tram system, of course we would be very supportive, but we’re not the people who actually make those decisions, that is the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE), but clearly we would be very involved in any of those sorts of discussions.

Q: Mark Hope - Not enough people have easy access to the tram, it’s not really been expanded since conception, what plans are there to expand?

Answer: As I’ve just said, the only system that’s been expanded at the moment is the tram train and that will take you out from Meadowhall through to Rotherham and there will be a new tram stop at Parkgate.

They are the immediate plans and as I’ve said we hope that will be opened in 2017 but any other extension needs to be considered as part of the PTE’s overall strategy.

Q: Charles Evans - How many people do you think fare dodge on the trams, and what are you doing to try to tackle it?

A: - We do have a very robust revenue protection scheme, we have our duty managers regularly go out to check people’s tickets to ensure people have a ticket and are travelling the correct distance on them.

Our statistics would suggest that it’s a very low-level problem to us, however we continue to improve it, we work very closely with our colleagues at East Midlands Trains, with the police and we do various activities to ensure we keep that type of revenue evasion to a minimum.

When the duty managers go out and check tickets we have a value which tells us how many tickets have been evaded or people have over-travelled and we are very comfortable that that figure is minimal - between one and three per cent.

Q:Janine Morrall - What, if anything, will be done to reduce cycling accidents on the tram tracks?

A: I know we are working very closely with the PTE and Sheffield Council to try and improve the safety of cyclists. Clearly it is a difficult situation because we’ve got all sorts of traffic out there using the system.

I know the council and PTE are looking at ways to improve the safety, whether that’s extra cycle tracks, leaflets giving cyclists ideas about how to protect their safety, but we do everything we can to support that.

Q: Rebecca Ball - Why won’t you run later trams on Friday and Saturday nights?

We’re always looking to review our timetable, which is set and agreed with the PTE.

We are considering looking at our timetable as part of tram train and we have looked at it in terms of not just late travel but also maybe travel to Meadowhall. So we’re always in the business of reviewing it but we haven’t got any immediate plans to bring in late night trams.

Our trams come in, at the latest, at midnight and they all have to be maintained and cleaned every night so it is a relatively short period of time that we get to turn those trams around ready to be going out at 5am the next morning.

Q:Rebecca Ball - Why won’t you allow bikes on trams when you allow pushchairs and wheelchairs? I have been told it is about cleanliness.

A: It’s not because of cleanliness, so I apologise for where you got that information from. The reason is we do have a responsibility to allow people on our trams, both in wheelchairs and people with prams.

Our challange is that we have what we regard as an open system so we have a number of doors that open, a number of customers can get on the trams and if we have a situation where the space that bikes would go into is already filled we have no way of managing that process in a safe way. We allow bikes on if they are folded up.

This has been under review for a number of years and we will continue to - never say never. But at this moment in time we believe the safety concerns associated with an open system are far greater than allowing people to use their bikes.

Q: David Goodwin - I have a son who is a Sheffield resident when not at university. How is it that when he is home he has to pay full fare but Sheffield university students can get a cheaper ticket?

A: We always review our ticket prices. For the moment we feel that we very much give a good deal to the students of Sheffield and I think they need to be our priority but we will always look at other tickets and if we feel it is appropriate to open up these types of tickets to all students then that is something we would consider.

Q: Liz Marshall As frequent users of the tram since it opened, we are sometimes ‘thrown off’ when the tram is unable to proceed further due to a fault, or an obstruction on the line.

Are you able to improve the way passengers are treated?

We don’t expect all tram crews to have detailed knowledge of nearby bus routes but surely such information could be held centrally and when control tells a driver to ‘detrain’ passengers, they could give out some helpful advice. At the moment we just feel abandoned, often somewhere far from home. This is not very good customer service.

A: Absolutely right, we would make sure and we want to make sure that when those situations occur and sometimes it is unfortunate and I’m aware that can happen, we would really expect our staff to provide detailed information because one of our benefits is most of our staff are local anyway so they should have that information.

But I absolutely take your point and that is something I’m going to take away from this and make sure I check with our control to make sure they can provide some of our conductors who aren’t as familiar with the local area with information. So thank you for that suggestion.

Q: David Green - Is it possible Stagecoach can discuss haphazard parking at or around tram stops with either the highways or police?

I have aged parents living at Gleadless and find many times social services, ambulances and carers cannot park due to cars parked from 7am until late. Surely this is not acceptable?

A: I can understand your concerns and clearly if there is anything we can do to improve the situation we would be happy to do so. However as you quite rightly have said the issue around parking has to sit with the council, police and the PTE but we would be very comfortable to support anything that they might choose to do to help alleviate the problem.

Q: Rebecca Ball - Why are you extending the tram to Rotherham, taking people out of Sheffield, rather than to other parts of Sheffield? Have you got any plans for expansion - other tram systems in country have, we haven’t apart from this silly link to Rotherham.

A: We very much are looking forward to this first extension which is the first extension of the tram system for the last 20 years. We would be very excited if the PTE and other authorities put a plan in place to extend it to other parts of Sheffield and beyond indeed and we would be very pleased for that.

But in terms of a decision on where the tram is going to go and how far out and indeed the investment that’s required to do that, that’s not within our gift, but we would very much be supporting anything the council and the PTE would like to do in terms of extensions.

Q: @Se7en_Samurai - If the HS2 station is at Meadowhall, how fast could Supertram get passengers to city centre? Is express service possible?

A: Whatever may happen I’m sure we want to be part of HS2 when it comes along and I’m sure it will benefit us but to start at this stage thinking about what timetables would run and how we would change our services - it is just so far in the future we wouldn’t be able to give you a quality answer at this stage.