Network Rail is to look at rolling out the use of tram-train technology as part of its drive to cut costs.
The tram-train concept will be studied in more detail as part of the company’s alternative solutions route utilisation strategy (RUS).
Tram-trains are designed to operate on both tram tracks and existing railways.
Developed in Germany, tram-trains are lighter, more energy efficient and have faster acceleration and deceleration than conventional trains, making them greener and potentially cutting down on the need for maintenance works.
Network Rail is already looking at using the concept in south Yorkshire. The Department for Transport is putting up £150,000 towards a pilot project that could see tram-trains run between Sheffield and Rotherham.
Transport minister Norman Baker gave the funds to the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, Northern Rail and Network Rail last March in order for them to carry out further work on the business and project case for the pilot.
Tram-trains could potentially run on the existing rail freight route from Rotherham before joining the Sheffield Supertram network at Meadowhall South.
Further use of the tram-train concept will be studied by the RUS process alongside community rail initiatives and more innovative ways of replacing diesel traction with electrically-powered trains. To further develop the strategy an invitation is being made to all of Network Rail’s partners, customers and other interested industry parties to submit their ideas. The consultation will last for 60 days and close on 30 April.
The submissions will help shape a second draft which will go out to formal consultation in the summer.
The cash-saving alternatives
The three alternatives being looked at by Network Rail to see if different ways of working can help the industry become more effective and better value for money are:
- Can the application of tram or tram train technologies (such as the tram train concept) deliver savings in capital, operating and maintenance costs, whilst simultaneously delivering improvements for passengers?
- Are there cheaper and more innovative ways of replacing diesel traction with electrically-powered trains?
- To what extent can the further development of community rail initiatives provide locally applicable opportunities for adding value to railway operations?