Dan Jarvis, the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, has gone on record as saying one of his priorities remains securing the future of the Supertram network and that this remains more important than even considering any future expansion. It has been known for some time that major works for its renewal will be needed from 2024 – coincidentally the same year that Stagecoach ‘s contract to operate Supertram expires – and the Mayor has said he remains in constant dialogue with the government over securing funding.
It is expected that costs for the renewal of the network will be in the region of £400 million, cash which the city region does not currently have at its disposal (they were awarded £166 million from the Transforming Cities fund last year). Works which will need to renew the system include on the infrastructure such as track and stops, the trams themselves (the original trams now having been in service for over 27 years) as well as at the depot. Mr Jarvis has said that ministers have said to him they are committed to supporting any renewals needed but at the moment these are just words.
Mr Jarvis told the Local Democracy Service: “I’m in constant talk with the Department for Transport about renewing Supertram. Obviously the priority in recent months has been about keeping the system going. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get additional money out of national government to keep Supertram running, and we’ve been able to do that. We’ve got to look at our public transport system in the round, so I don’t look at buses, or the tram in isolation, because we need an integrated network, but we are working closely with the DfT nationally and with Sheffield Council, to ensure that we are in a financial position to invest in the renewal of Supertram. I’ve always said we will renew Supertram is an expensive project to do but that is something that we will do with a significant amount of that investment will have to come from national government. But what we don’t yet know is where Government are post pandemic in terms of what money they will make available. There is no reduction in our commitment to make sure that we renew and then enhance Supertram.”
There remains support within the region for the retention of the network – a survey took place in 2019 asking for views which included the possibility of abandoning the system and replacing it with bus rapid transit as one potential option – but the costs remain a significant challenge with the next few years set to the crucial for the future of the network.