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TRAM: British and Australian (American usually streetcar also trolley) noun [C]
An electric vehicle that transports people, usually in cities, and goes along metal tracks in the road. (Taken from the Cambridge English Dictionary)

In Association with
Stagecoach Supertram 2003 by Gareth Prior
This page was last updated 23 August 2003
The Stagecoach Supertram has now been running for 9 years in Sheffield. In this article we look at the current operations of the network and what the future holds with a brief look at the discussions on proposed extensions.

The current Supertram network runs for 15 miles on three main routes, each colour coded. The Blue route runs from Malin Bridge to Halfway, the purple route from Herdings Park to Cathedral and Meadowhall (changing to the yellow route at Cathedral) and the yellow route runs from Middlewood to Meadowhall via the city centre. Despite originally having its problems the network has now proved to be a success with 11 million passengers currently carried annually, with each tram potentially removing 150 cars off the areas roads.

The Supertram is operated by 25 trams which are stabled and maintained at the Nunnery Square depot on the route to Meadowhall. The trams are eight axle and articulated versions in 3 sections with 40% of the floor space trams low floor. This has been limited to this extent due to the fact that all the axles have to be powered due to the steep gradients at various points on the system. The low floor areas in the trams are 420mm with the high floor areas at the bogies at 880mm. The trams were built by Siemens in Dusseldorf, Germany and after some initial testing in Dusseldorf were delivered to Sheffield by ferry and road. When Supertram originally opened the trams were finished in a two-tone grey livery but after the system was taken over by Stagecoach the trams were painted into their colours of white, orange, red and blue. All the trams remain in this livery except for 120 which carries a blue and pink all over advert for the Meadowhall Shopping Centre.

The system has a mixture of street running (in the city centre and on the route to Middlewood) and segregated railway like operation (such as the line to Meadowhall). In the city centre and on the route to Middlewood there is some mixed operation with other road traffic as was seen on the traditional tram systems of a bygone era.

Back in 1994 the network sold tickets from machines on the platforms at each of the stops (as is done in Manchester) with validating machines. However after a few years it was found that the machines could easily be vandalised and the system was open for abuse so Supertram now runs with conductors selling tickets on board the trams. The tram stops themselves tell the passengers the fares for journeys between certain points and also give timetable details for the various routes. For unlimited travel on the trams across the network a daytripper ticket is sold at £2.20, excellent value.

On 6 June I visited the system for the first time since a brief visit in 1995 and must say that I was very impressed with its operation. It also could possibly lay claim to be the most attractive second generation system in the UK with the sleek trams and the views offered across the Don Valley on the Meadowhall route.

On this visit to the system the following trams were seen in service:
101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 112, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125
In addition the following were spotted at the depot:
111, 115

The future

Now that the Supertram network has become more successful it has led the South Yorkshire PTE to examine possible extensions to help build on this success. In May 2003 a leaflet was produced entitled Extending Supertram, informing the public on the current progress on these possible extensions.

The leaflet lists the potential benefits and problems with the benefits including reduction in congestion and pollution whilst the major problem being listed as the impact of the route on the landscape, streetscape, heritage, properties and the environment. Over the last 2 years a series of studies have been carried out looking at transport problems in South Yorkshire and following these they have come to the conclusion that two extensions would be able to be pursued. They came to these conclusions because they feel that they ‘have significant benefits that can be shown to justify the costs; offer better value for money than cheaper alternatives; can be run profitably.’ (quote taken from the Extending Supertram leaflet which can be seen in full at Supertram Extensions)

The extensions put forward in the leaflet are Dore to Hellaby and Ranmoor to Parkgate via Rotherham Town centre. It is envisaged that if these extensions are built there is only likely to be 30% operation on current road routes and where this does happen there will be plenty of room for both cars and trams to operate together.

Since the leaflet was produced it has been reported that a third possible extension in the north to Stocksbridge and Deepcar has had to be shelved as the cost could come to as much as £100 million, funding that the PTE feel that they would be unlikely to receive from the government.

In mid July things moved a step forward when the City Council Cabinet gave their outline backing to the proposals for the extensions from Ranmoor to Rotherham via Sheffield City Centre and the Royal Hallamshire hospital and from Dore to Hellaby. The likely cost for these routes has been worked out as being £383 million. In addition the cabinet decided that an extension to the Northern General Hospital should not be totally ruled out at this time.

The next stage for these proposed extensions will be another public consultation exercise, possibly in the autumn of this year, before a final decision is made on whether to make an application for funding from the government. Whatever happens it is unlikely that any construction will start of these routes for 5 years.

Sources used in the writing of this article
Tram to Supertram - by Peter Fox, Paul Jackson & Roger Benton (1995 - Platform 5 Publishing)
Extending Supertram - South Yorkshire PTE leaflet
Supertram Extensions Website

Related Links on British Trams Online
Stagecoach Supertram Fleet List
Gallery 10: Stagecoach Supertram 2003
News Page

Related Internet Links
Official Website All the information you need if using the system
Supertram Extensions South Yorkshire PTE site detailing the current state of play on the extensions