Three new Sheffield tram-train routes proposed by MP, and this is where they would run
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Clive Betts wants tram-trains to run from the city centre to Stocksbridge, Beighton and Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and he claims this could be done relatively quickly and cheaply using existing tracks.
The MP for Sheffield South East says transport chiefs here must act now to avoid being left behind by other cities which have recently extended their tram systems and have plans in place for further expansion.
“We have to be bold and ambitious, because other cities like Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham have overtaken us in terms of light railway development since Supertram launched 25 years ago,” he said.
“We have a really popular tram system here which needs to be expanded. The obvious way to do that, because of the benefits you would get for a relatively low cost, is to use the existing railway tracks to run tram-trains.
“The Rotherham tram-train pilot is now running and there are railway lines which are pretty underused where we could use that technology.
“We need to make sure we don’t wait three years before saying about the tram-train ‘that was a good idea, let’s see where else it could work’.
“There are other cities which are already looking at our tram-trains and considering how they can use the technology, and we need to do the same.”
There have long been calls to reintroduce passenger trains on the old Woodhead route to Stocksbridge, which is currently used by freight trains serving the steel works there.
Mr Betts says the area's poor road links to the city centre, coupled with the amount of development taking place, means there is definitely the demand for a new tram train route.
Trams already serve Crystal Peaks shopping centre, near Beighton, but Mr Betts wants to see tram-trains running into the heart of the suburb, using the line via Darnall and Woodhouse.
As well as serving Beighton, where the station closed in 1954, he says they could stop at the Waverley estate and on Handsworth Road, and could provide extra services to the existing stations, from which only one train an hour currently runs in each direction.
Bosses at Doncaster Sheffield Airport last year unveiled proposals for a £280 million rail link, but Mr Betts believes there is also scope for a tram train link from Sheffield to the airport, running largely on existing tracks.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) said it was ‘exploring the options for expansion’.
Tim Taylor, its director of customer services, said: “Tram Train has already provided half a million journeys in its first six months and is proving extremely popular with customers. A survey by Transport Focus found satisfaction with the overall journey and journey time on the Tram Train route was 100 per cent.
“We’re very pleased with the result so far and ensuring the long term sustainability of the Tram Train network in the future is one of SYPTE’s and Sheffield City Region’s priorities. A lot of work goes into creating new routes – even where there are existing train tracks – and we’re currently exploring the options for expansion.”
The Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train finally launched last October, three years after it was due to begin running and having cost five times the £15m which was originally budgeted.
But Mr Betts blamed those troubles on Network Rail ‘making a real mess’ of the project and said there was no reason a new tram-train route should be beset by similar issues.
With the tracks already in place and hybrid vehicles eliminating the need for overhead cables throughout the new routes, Mr Betts said the most expensive and disruptive element would probably be making the necessary changes in Sheffield city centre.
Beighton ward councillor Chris Rosling-Josephs welcomed Mr Betts' proposals, saying new homes and shops in the area meant roads there were often ‘jammed’.
“Anything that relieves traffic in the area by getting people out of their cars has to be a good thing," he added.
Stocksbridge ward councillor Jack Clarkson said: “This would be fantastic if it happens. It’s desperately needed because congestion is already so bad that buses aren’t running to time during rush hour, and there are lots of new housing developments being built.
“This would get Sheffield on the move again and provide a vital link with Stocksbridge, which sometimes feels quite isolated from the rest of Sheffield.”
The Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train route was the first extension to the city’s tram system since it opened in 1994.
Supertram’s network has 50 stops spread across 21 miles of tracks and carried 11.9 million passengers in 2018/19.
How does Sheffield's tram network compare to those in other cities?
The Metrolink tram system has 93 stops across seven lines, which stretch for nearly 60 miles. It carried 43.7 million passengers last year, according to figures from the Department for Transport.
A new Trafford Park Line is due to open next year and transport chiefs also want to extend the Manchester Airport line. They considering introducing tram-trains too, and adding an underground service through the city centre.
A recent extension more than doubled the size of Nottingham’s tram network, which now has 51 tram stops and in 2018/19 served 18.8 million passengers.
There are plans in place for further expansion, taking it out to Derby and East Midlands Airport.
West Midlands Metro carried 5.9 million passengers in 2018/19 but says its tram network is due to triple in size over the coming years, as a £1.3 billion upgrade is completed, to encompass over 80 tram stops.