Tram-train five times over budget July 4, 2017

A Sheffield city-focused tram-train scheme which bypasses a travel interchange which provides Rotherham with connectivity to other parts of Yorkshire is now five times over budget and running more than two years late.

A report from the public accounts watchdog the National Audit Office reveals a cost of 75m instead of the originally agreed 15m budget.

Rotherham already has trains connecting the town to Sheffield station in 14 to 17 minutes. They call at Meadowhall Interchange (a connecting station for express services, trains to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield and already a connection to the Sheffield Supertram).

The Rotherham to Sheffield tram-trains, chosen in preference to other potential South Yorkshire locations, bypass the transport interchange, are expected to take over 20 minutes to get from Rotherham to Sheffield and will each have a lower seating capacity than a Pacer train.

Advantages are that Rotherham passengers will be able to directly reach streets in some parts of Sheffield city centre without having to get off a train and on to a tram at either Meadowhall or Sheffield station. The scheme will also create a new tram-train station rather than a train station at Rotherham's out-of-town Parkgate shopping centre. The tram-trains also have purpose-designed standing capacity.

The first of seven Spanish-built tram-trains for the line was delivered in December 2015 when the work was originally expected to be completed. Work to accommodate the vehicles has involved depot alterations, line electrification, creation of a link between tram line and railway at Tinsley, bridge rebuilding to clear overhead wires, new signalling, platform work at Rotherham Central station to take the low floor tram-trains and modifications to the new tram-trains.

In spite of some experience from the light rail scheme in Manchester and trams in several cities, the scheme was backed by the government as a pilot to learn about the issues of tram-train technology.

The scheme to create Rotherham's second link to Sheffield will now not be completed until next year.

The National Audit Office findings stated: "The Department (for Transport) and Network Rail have learned lessons from the pilot but it is too early to determine whether the project will realise the wider strategic benefits."

More on: Sheffield Rotherham and Yorkshire on the slow track

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