Testing finally begins on Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train link

The tram-train project is due for completion this autumn.
The tram-train project is due for completion this autumn.
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Testing of the long-awaited Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train link has finally begun with bosses confirming that passengers should 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 Stagecoach Supertram, who will operate the scheme, said testing was underway on the new track between Meadowhall and Parkgate, via Rotherham Central railway station.

A spokesman said: "I can confirm that the infrastructure and vehicle interface testing has begun, with the tram trains running on the Network Rail track. Once successfully completed this will allow driver training to commence and the testing of operational procedures.

"We are still working towards autumn for the services to go live and for passengers to begin using them."

The project was originally due to be completed in December 2015 at a cost of £15 million but is now expected to be complete this autumn at a cost of around £75.1 million - 400 per cent over its budget.

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

"I think this is excellent news. It's the same as anything else in terms of development - it's alright telling people we are going to be up and running but when people see it with their own eyes, they start to believe it," he said.

"Once people will see trams on the tracks they will start asking when they can use the services. I think this is a positive move - people can see it coming to fruition now and let's hope that we are still on for an autumn start as promised."

Rotherham Borough Council leader Chris Read said the tram-train would fit in with ongoing development projects in the town centre.

He said: "It's been a long time coming but it's a pioneering, innovative piece of work. It's the first time we have had a tram train anywhere in the country and it will be great for the town centre to have a link to and from Sheffield."

A Network Rail spokesman 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."