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Tram-train projects gain regional support

Tram operators were this week eagerly awaiting the outcome of an application for the funding of a Sheffield tram-train pilot scheme in the hope that the system could be rolled out across the country.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), parent organisation of operator Manchester Metrolink, said it was “keen” to see the Sheffield pilot go-ahead.

Network Rail heightened interest in tram-trains last week when it revealed it was close to securing a £17M DfT grant for the pilot - the first of its kind in the UK.

Its plan involves creating a direct rail link between Sheffield’s 29km long tram network and the neighbouring town of Rotherham 5.6km to the south.

Lower cost to taxpayer

TfGM committee chairman, councillor Andrew Fender, told NCE that an initial study it had carried out found that the introduction of tram-trains across its network could improve services and provide wider choice at a “lower cost to the taxpayer”.

The analysis focused on a tram-train link between Manchester to Marple via Bredbury - south of the city.

Fender added that a successful pilot in Sheffield “would help to boost confidence in tram-trains in other parts of the country”.

Nottingham Tram operator Tramlink Nottingham said it was also eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Sheffield trial.

But such a tram-train is not currently included in the city’s £570M project to construct two new lines on the network.

Securing funding for this extensive scheme has been difficult in the past, with the local council previously pulling out of the extension in 2009 saying it was too expensive.

It was resurrected when the Department for Transport (DfT) pledged £370M to the scheme.

This money was supplemented by a European Investment Bank loan on £110M, announced last December.

If the Sheffield scheme is approved, local train operator Northern Rail will purchase seven new, specially modified tram-trains, which will be able to run on Sheffield’s Supertram network and on a modified
part of the national rail network.

To enable dual-running, Network Rail will carry out overhead line electrification of the railway between Sheffield and Rotherham and build a new 400m long rail connection between the two networks.

Under the programme Network Rail will deliver the project in collaboration with the DfT - the overall client and funder of the project - Northern Rail, tram operator Stagecoach Supertram and transport body South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.

Pilot scheme by 2014

The new tram-trains could be running on the pilot scheme in 2014, if funding is granted.

Network Rail is keen to see the tram-train pilot go ahead as it seeks alternatives to its route utilisation strategy.

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