Plans for a “unique” tram-train service between Sheffield and Rotherham are on track with the announcement of a further £150,000 funding towards feasibility work.
Transport Minister Norman Baker announced the sum, which will fund further investigations to ensure vehicles are safe to run on both Supertram and train tracks, and stressed the Government’s commitment to the scheme.
He said: “There is no doubt about finance being available to deliver the scheme. The Government is committed to a trial of tram-trains in the UK and the route between Sheffield and Rotherham is the best place to develop it. This is a unique scheme.”
Mr Baker did not reveal how much the full cost of the scheme will be, but said the Government would pick up the bill for vehicles and electrification.
The scheme - which could be up and running by 2014 - involves running tram-trains along the Supertram route from Sheffield city centre to Meadowhall South, then switching to an adjacent rail line which is now being used by freight trains running into Rotherham.
Tram-trains would call at Rotherham Central station before terminating at Parkgate. Services are planned to run every 20 minutes.
David Brown, director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which is working with train firm Northern Rail and Network Rail on the scheme, said: “We have done an awful lot of work on the plans so far and further efforts will look at ensuring the vehicles are compatible with both types of network, which are the same gauge.”
Tram-trains are already in use on the continent but not in the UK at present.
The proposed scheme is being developed as an alternative to the original plans for the Supertram network to be extended to Rotherham.
Although mainline trains cover the journey between Sheffield and Rotherham at speed, officials believe the new scheme will attract extra passengers travelling to intermediate points.
The service will also be more convenient for people who find it difficult to walk from Sheffield railway station, by providing a direct service into the heart of the city.