Since 1994 Sheffield has enjoyed the benefits of a tramway following the start of service on the Supertram network but the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) have now warned that unless £230 million worth of funding can be secured the whole system may have to close permanently. The warning has come as part of a new consultation asking residents, businesses and visitors to the area for their views on what they see as the best future for the network.
As part of Stagecoach’s current deal to operate and maintain the network – which goes until 2024 – ongoing maintenance costs are paid for but beyond this date there is no funding in place. To this end SYPTE are planning to submit a business case to the Department for Transport for funding to secure the network for a further 30 years but as part of this they say they have to consider a range of options which does include closing the system.
It has been known for some time that the time is rapidly approaching when major investment is needed to maintain the network for the future with the majority of the tram fleet being original vehicles from 1993/4; by far the oldest trams in regular service in the UK. However, it is only now that SYPTE have come out and put a figure on how much will be needed to secure the future of the line for the next 30 years – £230 million. This would not only cover new trams but also the general infrastructure.
The warning from SYPTE is stark – if they don’t manage to secure £230 million they may be forced to close the system. In the details of the consultation they state: “If we are unsuccessful in securing future funding for a mass transit solution the Supertram network may have to be closed and decommissioned, the cost of which would have to be covered by the Region. Closure would also prevent any future network extensions.” How much of this warning is to try and persuade central government of the need for the cash remains to be seen but one thing is for sure and that is that investment will be needed in the fairly near future particularly to replace the trams.
Back to the public consultation, which was launched on Monday 24th September, and this is seeking views on three options for the system:
* Maintaining Supertram as it is through ongoing essential repairs
* Renewing and modernising Supertram’s tracks, vehicles and information systems
* Exploring alternative options to Supertram
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “For more than 20 years the Supertram has been a fixture within Sheffield and the region and has been making more than 12 million passenger journeys a year. We are now working with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to establish what the future of the Supertram system might look like. We want to hear from those people who currently use the Supertram, and those who don’t, about what its future should be. I would encourage as many people as possible to have their say.”
The consultation will continue until 5th November. It can be accessed online at https://www.travelsouthyorkshire.com/futuretram/ (follow the links to the online consultation form at the bottom of the page).