It was a special day for passengers, businesses leaders and politicians as the Sheffield to Rotherham tram-tram finally launched – almost three years later than planned.
But it was all the more memorable for Neil Dewire who was handed the keys to drive the first-ever passenger service between Cathedral and Parkgate Shopping.
Mr Dewire, of Intake, has been a driver for two-and-a-half years and after months of training took to the cab as the project got underway on Thursday.
He said: “It's a very special day for me and it’s been a long time coming. I was just asked if I would do it by the management and of course I said yes.
“I was a truck driver for 27 years and Stagecoach were advertising for tram drivers so I just thought why not?”
The pilot project has cost around £75 million – £60 million more than original estimates – and was orginally due to launch in 2015.
It sees trams run on the normal Supertram tracks between Cathedral and Meadowhall South, before switching onto the rail network out to Parkgate, via Rotherham Central.
Three services an hour run on the route, with a journey time of 27 minutes. Tram-trains run from 5.27am until around 11pm Monday to Saturday and 8.27am until around 7pm on Sunday.
Mr Dewire added: “When we go onto the rail network we just switch this button onto rail and connect to the Network Rail signalling system.
“It’s different in terms of when you drive on the railway tracks you just drive to the Network Rail signals but on the tram network you drive by sight because there are cars and pedestrians.”
Single tram-train fares range from £1.80 between Pakrgate and the Arena/Olympic Legacy Park and £2.50 for further journeys. A tram dayrider costs £4.
Visit www.supertram.com for more information.