Sheffield City Region look for tram-train extensions as part of rail plan

The latest region of the UK to unveil their plans for the future of transport is the Sheffield City Region and again there are ideas for trams although in this case it isn’t conventional trams mentioned as buoyed by the success of the link to Rotherham Parkgate it would be tram-train which would be developed.

The Integrated Rail Plan states that they would seek to make the current tram-train link between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate permanent after the conclusion of its two year pilot period (not that it was in much doubt anyway with Stagecoach having said they were committed to the service for the length of their franchise). A short-term priority would also see the expansion of Park and Ride at Parkgate and new stop on this line at Magna which also feature Park and Ride facilities. There would be the development of a business case for an extension of the line to Waverley.

Looking further ahead and in the medium to long term tram-train services would be maximised through Rotherham Central with direct fast services to Doncaster, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Sheffield.

Possible options in the long-term for extending the tram-train could include:

* Sheffield-Advanced Manufacturing District-Rotherham

* Upper Don Valley, Chapletown/High Green to Sheffield via Meadowhall, Northern General Hospital and/or Hillsborough

* Meadowhead to City Centre

* A north orbital connecting Hillsborough to the Northern General Hospital, Meadowhall and Advanced Manufacturing District

* A new service to the south east of the city from Handsworth, Woodhouse and Beighton, possibly including a spur to Aston and Aughton

* Improved direct services between the West and the South West, the City Centre and the Lower Don Valley and Meadowhall

Whilst all these routes are suggested as potential tram-train routes studies will be undertaken to see the best form of mass transit for these corridors and these may suggest other forms could be the better option so there is no guarantee they would go-ahead with developing them for tram-train.

A timeline provided in the report suggests a tram-train line to Doncaster would be developed in the period up until 2028 whilst the new stop at Magna would be built by 2022 (the expansion of the Park and Ride and Parkgate is dated as 2021).

Perhaps most importantly for trams in Sheffield the plan also reaffirms commitment for the current Supertram network with support for the complete renewal of the infrastructure, including new vehicles. Whilst no funding is in place for this it is said to have a high benefit cost ratio and would also include an expanded depot for the future with all this in place by 2024.

The report is looking at rail travel in the region as a whole and away from trams and tram-trains it also proposes new stations (including a Midland Mainline station in Rotherham and on the East Coast Mainline at Doncaster Sheffield Airport), an upgrading of the Hope Valley Line and preparations for HS2 with upgrades to stations at Chesterfield and Sheffield.

Commenting on the proposals Mayor of Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, said: “This is a landmark moment for our region. For the first time, Government, regional partners and our local authorities have come together to welcome a vision for the future of our rail services, creating a Plan that will revolutionise rail travel for our communities. A new station in the Dearne Valley, on the Northern Powerhouse Rail network, will offer potentially transformational regeneration opportunities for that area. I look forward to working with the Department for Transport to ensure that sits alongside essential investment in the surrounding road network, especially at the pinch point around Hickleton and Marr. But although individual pieces of infrastructure are undoubtedly important; the most important feature of this Plan is that it ties together separate projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail into one cohesive whole, enabling people to travel within our region, across the North and nationally in a simple and efficient way. When I became Mayor I made transport one of my key priorities. Following on from the launch of my Transport Strategy, the appointment of Dame Sarah Storey as the Sheffield City Region’s first Active Travel Commissioner, the launch of our independent Bus Review and the submission of a £220m Transforming Cities Fund bid, this is another example of how I’m taking action to ensure our transport network is fit for the 21st century.”

The press release states that the plan has been welcomed by the Department for Transport but despite that no mention of funding for any of the specific projects is currently in place. The Sheffield City Region does have a bid in for cash from the Transforming Cities Fund but for tram/tram-train the only specific item mentioned back then was the new stop at Magna on the Rotherham route.

* The full report can be viewed online.

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