OPINION: After Purple fiasco, Sheffield’s new tram-trains can’t come soon enough

The launch of the new tram train. Picture: Andrew Roe
The launch of the new tram train. Picture: Andrew Roe
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It’s finally here!

After what feels like years of waiting and hoping, and countless promises, Sheffield’s very first shiny new tram-train hybrid has arrived at the depot.

The Star’s own Lauren Clarke explored the new machines in depth (see below), the first new vehicles to be brought onto the Supertram network since its launch in 1994; seven in total that will help services become more frequent as well as cover more of South Yorkshire.

From 2017, they will run along a specially adapted extension from Meadowhall South, through Rotherham town centre and on to Parkgate retail park – the first extension since the £240million tracks were first laid, 21 years ago.

Frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

The Supertram has undoubtedly become part of the city’s furniture; trams whooshing across Park Square bridge above a backdrop of a slowly transforming city centre skyline is an iconic image of Sheffield.

But there’s also no doubt that the tram network has never been more strained.

That was clear just this week, when Stagecoach took the unprecedented step of canning Purple route services from Herdings Park to Meadowhall during the daytime, citing ‘lack of tram availability.’

The two-tram crash at Shalesmoor in October, which put both out of service, has left the rest of the network visibly under stress.

At peak times, Blue and Yellow trams have become snarled in traffic, usually in on-road sections like Hillsborough, with no spare vehicles to plug the gaps.

One tram has since been returned to service, restoring a partial Purple, but the route still doesn’t run to Meadowhall, except on Sundays, and there is no date set for its full reinstatement.

At a time when Sheffield’s bus services have been widely criticised for changes which have cut bus frequency and diverted routes, it’s disheartening to see the tram network in turn face a struggle to provide a decent service.

First the buses, now the trams. How are people supposed to use public transport instead of their cars if it simply isn’t as good as it should be? Or used to be?

Bus changes are being debated and could be partly reversed - the outcome remains to be seen.

As for the trams, the answer is clear: get these new trams out on track, ASAP, and give back the city the top service it has become used to for the past 21 years.