A bit of good news was received in Sheffield this week when Chancellor George Osborne announced during his Autumn Statement that the plan for four extra trams for the Supertram network was progressing to the next stage. The bid for funding to allow the purchase of these vehicles has been on the table for a while but with budget cuts had been put on the back burner until now.
Operator of Supertram, Stagecoach, have said they will now work alongside the South Yorkshire PTE to introduce the new vehicles which it is hoped will be operational by November 2014. £18.4 million has been put forward for the plan of which £12.4 million will be provided by the Department for Transport. Although the plan has been given the go-ahead that doesn’t mean the trams will definitely be arriving any time soon as the go-ahead is really only to bid for the funding (unfortunately politics doesn’t work that quickly in the UK!)
Another issue with the bid is the ongoing Tram-Train project which is due to run from Rotherham joining onto the Supertram network around Meadowhall South. The exact makeup of the order is not confirmed because of this presumably because a hope would be that an order for the extra vehicles could be combined with this (or maybe even replaced as extra capacity would be created with the tram-train vehicles).
An order for four trams is, of course, problematic as unless the SYPTE can add their order to the end of another places order costs are likely to increase. It is most likely that officials in Edinburgh will seek to offload some of their surplus trams to South Yorkshire but as has been reported many times before the CAF built vehicles are the longest ever built for the UK which may cause problems with platforms and signals.