Kevin Hague, aged 61, drove through a red light at the junction of Staniforth Road and Woodbourn Road on October 25, 2018 - the first day of the £75million tram-train service between Sheffield and Parkgate.
He admitted a charge of failing to comply with the indication of a traffic sign at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court this morning.
Kelly Hutchinson, prosecuting, said the crash caused around £1 million of damage to the tram, including transportation of the vehicle back to its manufacturers in Spain.
She said: “As the team approached there were about 80 passengers on board.
“It had left Attercliffe tram stop at around 3.15pm and the defendant proceeded through a red light into the path of the tram train and, despite braking, it collided with the lorry.
“As a result of the impact, the tram derailed.”
She told the court that when the tram driver approached his cab following the collision and told him he had gone through a red light, Hague said: “I know but if you are going to do it, you may as well do it in style.”
In a victim impact statement which was read to the court, the tram driver, who was names as Mr Woodhouse, said he felt ‘lucky’ he was driving one of the new tram-train vehicles as they were more robust than traditional trams.
He added he also felt the junction was ‘dangerous’ as he ‘could not see the hazard coming at all’.
In a statement, Tim Bilby, managing director of Stagecoach Supertram, said the crash had caused a ‘lasting impact’ on the company.
Referring to publicity and media coverage of the tram-train service on the launch day, Mr Bilby said: “Unfortunately, all that was seen in the local and national media was video footage of the collision.
“This started a wave of local speculation that the new system had faults and this had a huge effect on staff morality.”
Chris Hopkinson, mitigating, said Hague, of Duncan Street, Brinsworth, Rotherham, had been a lorry driver since 1975 and had a clean driving licence.
He said: “It’s important to point out both this accident involving Mr Hague and another around a month later promoted the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.
“That investigation resulted, in my opinion, in changes which made it much clearer for drivers.”
Referring to Hague’s comments just after the collision, Mr Hopkinson said the lorry driver ‘didn't dispute what the tram driver said he heard’.
But he added: “Mr Hague recalls that he was actually on the phone to his office when he was approached by the tram driver and they made him aware that the accident was all over social media and it’s in relation to that, that Mr Hague made the comments that you have heard.”
Ordering him to pay a £250 fine, £85 costs, a £30 victim surcharge, and imposing three penalty points on his driving licence, bench chairman Lynne Fairbridge said: “A red light has not been complied with resulting in a collision with a public vehicle with around 80 passengers on board.
“It’s also had a serious and lasting impact on Stagecoach Supertram’s business as this happened on their launch day. This has also had an adverse impact on the travelling public.”