Transport minister Norman Baker has given the green light to a £58M pilot scheme to run revolutionary tram-trains on both rail and tram networks between Sheffield and Rotherham.
Works being undertaken to make the project a reality includes the electrification of a stretch of track between Sheffield and Rotherham and the construction of 400m of line linking the tramway to the train tracks.
The pilot is a partnership between the Department for Transport and Network Rail, Northern Rail, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and Stagecoach Supertram. SYPTE will lead on delivery of the pilot. The new tram train vehicles will begin operating from 2015 on Sheffield’s Supertram network and on part of the national rail network, which will be adapted to allow seamless travel from one to the other. There are expected to be three services an hour all day and every day. The pilot will run for two years, with a view to a permanent operation.
“Tram Trains have already proven hugely popular on the Continent. Now we will be able to test whether they can bridge the gap between tram and train networks in this country,” said Baker.
If the pilot is successful, it opens the way for tram-trains to be introduced in other parts of the country. Manchester is already keen to adopt the technology.
“We’ll be watching Sheffield’s Tram Train pilot very closely as we have begun work to understand whether this technology could be deployed within Greater Manchester,” said Transport for Greater Manchester committee chairman Andrew Fender.
“Tram-train could combine the advantages of the better access to the city centre our Metrolink tram system provides with the reach of the rail system into neighbouring districts. It has the potential to both improve public transport for passengers while also making our local rail services more cost-effective.”
The core objectives of the Tram Train pilot are to:
- Understand the changes to industry costs of operating a lighter weight vehicle with track brakes on the national rail network
- Determine changes to technical standards required both to allow inter-running of lightweight tram vehicles with heavy rail passenger and freight traffic and to gain the maximum cost benefit from tram-train operation
- Gauge passenger perception and acceptability of tram-train
- Determine the practical and operational issues of extending tram-trains from the national rail network to on-street running
- Understand the technical and operational challenges involved in this project so that the concept can potentially be rolled out elsewhere.
What is a tram-train?
A tram-train vehicle is based on a tram that has been enhanced to make it suitable for operation on the main line as a train as well as street running. Typically a tram train will have:
- Higher vehicle crashworthiness to allow for the higher average speed operations of it and other trains and to resist slow speed collisions with heavier trains
- Enhancements to the signalling system to minimise the risk of a collision between trains and Tram Trains. This involves installing train protection and warning system (TPWS) at all signals, whereas TPWS is currently installed at junctions and sites with high levels of signal passed at danger (SPAD) incidents
- Road Traffic Act compliant head lights and direction indicators for on-street operation and to meet rail main line lighting requirements for visibility
- Additional main line signalling and communications equipment such as TPWS and the Global System for Mobile Communication – Railway (GSM-R)
- More seating than a tram for longer distance journeys
- A wheel profile suitable for both tramway and standard main line track