Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train project could finally be up and running this autumn

The tram-train project was originally due to be completed in 2015.
The tram-train project was originally due to be completed in 2015.
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Testing of the long-awaited Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train link is finally due to begin this summer with passengers expected to be able to travel on the new line from 'late autumn' - almost three years later than originally planned.

The pilot project, which is already running £60 million over budget, was labelled as how 'not to' manage a rail scheme by a Government committee.

Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.

Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.

But Andrew Denniff, chief executive of the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said the benefits could be 'huge' and urged people to put frustrations about the delays to one side.

"Supertram came to see me about a month ago because they were doing the rounds telling organisations who needed to know. They said it will definitely be up and running by late autumn," Mr Denniff said.

"Looking at the actual track, because I drive past it every day, all the overhead infrastructure seems to be in place and the power seems to be there.

"In the summer we will see trams on those tracks doing lots of trial runs, which will be working out the timings."

Mr Denniff said he had been told there would be three trams an hour between Meadowhall and Parkgate, stopping at Rotherham Central, with a journey time of less than half-an-hour.

He added: "Tram-train means a lot to Rotherham. It's one the things we, as a chamber, have lobbied for and we have lobbied for and over the years we have voiced our frustrations over the delays.

"Firstly, it brings Rotherham onto the Supertram system and I think it's important people understand that. Ever since South Yorkshire Supertram started it's only been in Sheffield but I think the simple fact that it's now branching out of the city is the first step, I hope, to it covering all of South Yorkshire.

"Also, from a Rotherham point of view, if the journey times are like right that's going to improve accessibility and connectivity between Sheffield and Rotherham in a way that's never been available before. That will bring other benefits too such as reduced congestion."

Mr Denniff also suggested Magna Science Adventure Centre as the site of a possible park and ride facility for the tram-train system.

He said: "It's really important to remember it's a two-way system - both to and from Rotherham. It works both ways and once it's established I have spoken to South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive about the possibility of having another stop on the line at Magna.

"There is parking for around 400 vehicles so it wouldn't take that much work. It's obviously for the future not now, but it's certainly something to think about."

Rotherham Borough Council is also working on a £150 million masterplan to revive Rotherham town centre, which include a new cinema and hotel at Forge Island.

Mr Denniff said: "In the next five years, Rotherham will have a lot to offer and the use of the tram train will make that a lot more accessible."

Rotherham Borough Council leader Coun Chris Read said the tram-train project would fit in well with the ongoing regeneration of the town centre.

"I think it will be an important piece of infrastructure when it's delivered and we are all fed up with the delays and increases in costs but we've had delays with other infrastructure projects and they have got delivered," he said.

"I wouldn't want Rotherham to miss out because of the problems and delays with this scheme. Good public transport and, in particular to Sheffield, is important to Rotherham and it will lead to more people living in the town centre."

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: "Work continues to progress on the tram-train project. The project has moved into the final stages of construction and we continue to work to deliver the infrastructure to our partners to allow driver training to begin this summer."