Tram plans blow in bid to ease overcrowding

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PLANS to ease overcrowding on Sheffield’s Supertram have suffered a setback after it emerged government officials believe it represents poor value for money.

Documents released by the Department for Transport reveal the £14 million scheme to provide an additional four vehicles for the network has the third lowest “benefit cost ratio” out of a list of schemes competing for £630m of funding since October.

However, in a boost to local transport, the DfT has agreed to fund a scheme to dual the A57 east of Junction 31 on the M1 and replace Todwick Crossroads with a roundabout to cut accidents.

The winding stretch of road is a notorious accident blackspot where 12 people have been killed in crashes in the last decade.

The scheme was conditionally approved in October but bosses at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive were ordered to either reduce the costs - estimated last year to be £16m - or increase their own financial contribution.

The government has agreed to contribute £11.8m towards the scheme’s total cost of £14.7m.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond gave the scheme the green light as he provided an update on major schemes on hold since last year.

He announced the £40 million scheme for bus rapid transit routes between Sheffield and Rotherham was one of 23 projects which can enter the DfT’s so-called “Development Pool”.

This group now includes 55 projects from across the country fighting it out for funding from the £630m cash pot.

A document released by the DfT ranked the benefit-cost scores of the 22 schemes which have been on hold in the Development Pool since last year.

It showed the Waverley Link Road between the new Waverley township and Woodhouse Mill in Rotherham represented the best value of money with a benefit cost score of 4.5.

In contrast, the scheme for additional Supertram vehicles had a score of just 2.4,

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Passenger Executive said: “Supertram is a very popular system. It has 15 million passenger journeys a year. The business case is there and we are convinced it will bring great benefits to Sheffield and un-clog some congestion.”

Meanwhile the DfT has also announced it will not fund the A61 Penistone Road Smart Route in Sheffield during the next four years.

The scheme would have seen bus lanes and new bus stops as well as improved junctions and new traffic lights to reduce congestions at bottlenecks such as Leppings Lane and the Hillsborough Barracks.

Brightside MP David Blunkett said: “Having said they would consider the proposals in detail, they have - after a cursory examination - scrapped what was crucial investment in unblocking bottlenecks and assisting with economic development in the Upper Don Valley and Hillsborough area.

“I fear that this is just another example of the plug being pulled on key investment.”