South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard wants to roll supertram out all across region

South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard wants to create an ambitious plan to roll supertram out all across South Yorkshire.

Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:02 pm

Mr Coppard, elected to the post which has reponsibilities including transport, says ownership issues need to be resolved first, but then a major plan needs to be drawn up for the system, looking at a mass transit scheme on the network for the whole of the county.

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At present, the trams and the tram-trains serve Sheffield and Rotherham.

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Oliver Coppard would like to develop supertram across South Yorkshire

His comments come after resident Tom Atkin told him at The Star readers panel event at Marmaduke's on Cambridge Street, that he wanted action to improve the South Yorkshire tram system.

Second oldest trams in the country

Mr Atkins said: “In Manchester, Andy Burnham has done brilliant work on the Metrolink in Manchester, and it is an amazing system. They are often, it is reliable. Meanwhile, in Sheffield, we have added two stops to our light rail since 1995. We’ve got the second oldest main trams in the country after Croydon, and our system hasn’t expanded.

"And we have an opportunity there to put forward a holistic plan to expand over the next decade or so. It would mean the trunk routes through our cities and our towns be covered by the trams, and the buses be redirected to be more community orientated, serving from estate to estate, not having to go all the way through the city centre.

Star readers debate with the new mayor of South Yorkhire Oliver Coppard. Pictured is Tom Atkin.

"I don’t get why to do a journey of two miles I have to go all the way into the city and back. Trams are better for the environment, they can carry more people, they’re faster, and in South Yorkshire, they’ve got the highest passenger satisfaction of all modes of public transport. The economics support expanding supertram, much as it’s going to be a costly effort.

"Research shows where people invest in modern public transport, businesses take note, and will come to South Yorkshire. Would you in the next few years, look to create a plan to expand the supertram? Not just in Sheffield, but throughout South Yorkshire, because everyone pays for it.”

Mr Coppard said the point about the whole of South Yorkshire paying was entirely right and was something that needed to be recognised. He said it was not a Sheffield problem, it was a South Yorkshire opportunity.

He said: “This is about saying that we are going to expand our network wherever we can, and there are some places that may want it and some thay may not. We need to go where the energy is to a certain extent. But where we can and where we want to, as a collective, because this all needs to be done in conjunction with the leaders of the four local authorities, so we need to make sure that works. Expanding that network and making that network work better is an important part of how we develop our economy.

"It is partly about bringing in investment and jobs and people seeing they can get about the place. All the academic literature around regional development and economic development shows that, if you want to redevelop your local and regional economy, you have to have a mass transit system. It’s why Leeds are so keen to get a mass transit system.

Tram ownership issues

"We have that here, we have that opportunity to build on. There are some immediate challenges that we need to get over because of ownership issues, that we have to make pretty quick decisions on. Then we need to have a long term plan .

He said he had made commitments in his manifesto that he was committed to and was keen to move forward.

He said: “Clive Betts did a bus review with the bus commissioners and they did a really good review of where we are, and where we can get to with the buses. We need a simliar thing for the trams.

"We to get some smart people round the table, and look at what are the opportunities. We need to bring the Government into that conversation, as we need to get the money from the Government. To be fair, some of the money they have delivered to keep supertram going has been good.

"If we have that long term view (we can look at) how we want to develop the network, how we might want to integrate the light rail with the heavy rail. If we can do that, there is no reason we can’t develop a mass transit system that works for the whole of the region. I think that would be absolutely incredible. Again it relies on significant investment, but if they can spend £18.7 billion on cross rail (in London), imagine what that would do for things like supertram?”

He said the Government needed to commit to funding and South Yorkshire needs to commit the time and the effort to make that plan, which he believes needs to be an ambitious plan for the whole of the region.

”We need to show the benefit to the whole of the community,” he said

"It can’t just be hand to mouth the whole time. We need a plan and we need a strategy, and then to drive for that relentlessly.

"We need a plan for our buses, a plan for our mass transit, and a plan for rail, and make sure that all of that is about getting people around where they need to go in order to create jobs, make sure people can get to see friends and family, and take advantage of opportunites. It is transformative.”