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The Delayed Sheffield Tram-Train Finally Starts Services on the Supertram Network. An Eventual Model for Hertfordshire?

September 19, 2017 6:07 PM

Sheffield Tram Train 2 ()25 years behind the first successful link between a light rail and a normal rail network constructed in 1992 in Karlsruhe, the first trams designed to run on the first such link in the UK (dubbed "tram-train") have finally been introduced into passenger service.

Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister, was present, together with councillors and transport managers from across Sheffield for the introduction of the new Stadler tram onto Sheffield's Supertram network.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard was in attendance with transport leaders from across Sheffield to introduce the first train onto the existing Supertram network.

Testing of the vehicles officially started in April, and a crucial connection between the light rail and heavy rail network, called the Tinsley Chord, was completed a two months ago. Unfortunately this project has been hit by delays and cost over-runs. Its launch was pushed back from 2015 to spring 2016 and then January 2017, before a completion date of summer 2018 was finally set in February this year. Recently a National Audit Office report found that the project will have run five times over its original budget when it fully opens in May 2018 - costing over £75m.

The tram-train route will be run for two years as a pilot project, during which customer satisfaction, passenger numbers, reliability and costs will be measured. After this, tram-train will continue as a local service.

Hertfordshire County Councillor, Nick Hollinghurst, said, "The celebration of the first Stadler Citylink trams being run on existing track to supplement the regular services is a bit of a PR stunt. Nevertheless it very good for this milestone to be passed. It means that the project will now be completed, and once the new tram-train line between Rotherham and Sheffield is in service from May next year the new trams will transfer to that route."

"At the same time it is very disappointing that the planning and project management for this scheme appears to have ignored the experience gained over a quarter of a century by German and other tram-train operators. In addition to the 4 German systems there are also 2 Dutch, one American and one Austrian tram-train routes in operation, with an Australian line under construction and another in Germany. Why were lessons not learned from these earlier schemes? Was it the usual British attitude of disregarding anything 'not invented here'?"

"It is also of great regret that the Sheffield project performance has delayed the introduction of a technology which could find wide application in Hertfordshire and elsewhere - especially in providing east-west connections between the existing main rail lines which tend to radiate out of London."

One example he gave was of a revival of the Abbey Line between Watford and St Albans Abbey with a new spur across to join the Midland Main Line and run along it north to the St Albans City station. Picture from Rail Technology Magazine