The full cost of work to replace rails across the 20-year-old Supertram network in Sheffield has been revealed as £32 million – as details of the first phase of the project were revealed.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and operator Stagecoach say the scheme will take place over the next five summers and that it is ‘essential to protect the long-term future’ of the service.
The cost will be split between the two organisations.
A bid has also been made for £5 million from the Department for Transport to help cover the cost.
Initial replacement work is due to get under way between late June and early July on the section of track between Spring Lane and Park Grange Croft tram stops.
During the work – which is expected to take around 12 weeks – trams will be replaced by a dedicated bus service to ensure minimal disruption for passengers.
David Young, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s deputy interim director general and director of customer experience, said: “When the tram system was installed in 1994, it was widely expected at the time that the rail would have a 30-year lifespan.
“However, over the past two years, it has become clear that this replacement work needs to be carried out sooner rather than later to ensure the people of Sheffield, and the wider region, have a robust and reliable tram network in the future.”
The scheme is the first major overhaul of the network since it was built in the early 1990s.
Work needs to take place on all sections where rails are embedded in roads.
Later phases will involve the routes to Malin Bridge and Middlewood north of Shalesmoor, between Fitzalan Square and University in the city centre, along City Road and the outer ring road between Manor Top and Gleadless Townend, and in Hackenthorpe.
Around 22 kilometres of the 29 kilometre network need replacing.
SYPTE said the work being carried out will be aligned with the planned tram train pilot project which was announced by the Department for Transport.
The project, expected to be in operation by 2016, will see a new tram train between Sheffield and Rotherham.
A SYPTE spokesman added: “Once the replacement work is complete, it is thought that the new rails – made from harder wearing steel – will have a life-expectancy of 25-30 years.
“Other tram networks in the UK also require track renewal projects to be undertaken periodically due to the nature of what is known as the embedded rail.
“Embedded rail is used on most UK tram systems and tends to have a limited life expectancy. For example, Manchester’s Metrolink system and the Croydon tram network have previously completed rail replacement.”
The rail replacement work involves removing the rails and rubber surrounds along sections where rails are embedded in roads. Work cannot take place in winter because the rubber cannot be replaced during frost.