New routes could connect the Hospitals, Chesterfield, Barnsley, Rotherham, Huddersfield, Totley and Stocksbridge
The arrival of Supertram in 1994 was a great boost for the city, but unlike our dynamic neighbours in Nottingham and Manchester, development has stalled, just at a time when we need fast, high-quality public transport as a viable alternative to more car trips
Transport activist Thomas Atkin has produced a plan to extend the Supertram system.
The cost has been calculated at £1.8 billion pounds. A great deal of money, but this is the sort of ambition that is needed if we are to get people to choose public transport rather than the car, and so meet our net zero carbon targets. Other cities have won large amounts to improve their public transport. The Government has so far allocated £200m to Leeds Supertram but the final costs will be much greater than this. Manchester’s new super tram extension cost £350 million, but with the northern HS2 rail link scrapped, the Government might be looking for other big schemes to shout about.
There are three pre-construction stages to the scheme. First is the design stage, creating plans and visuals and consulting the public. The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority will need to invest in funding for this. Then the Funding stage, where data is analysed and used to apply for funding from Central Government. Thirdly the Preparation stage is where contracts are put out to tender.
A Night Tram, based on London’s night tube and bus services could be run throughout the night from Monday to Saturday supporting NHS staff, shift workers and the night-time economy.
Thomas’s idea is to build in three phases.
Phase One consists of the Dore and Dronfield to City Centre branches, the Purple Route extension to Bradway, the Circular Route links and the Doncaster, Chesterfield to Stocksbridge and the Penistone extensions to the Tram-Train.
Phase Two Construction includes the Burngreave and Walkley, Lodge Moor and Hellaby branches and branches to the City Hospitals and The Wicker. Phase 2 involves some areas of difficulty, especially in the Fulwood, Broomhill and Fir Vale areas, either due to interaction with heavy traffic or with emergency vehicles. In these areas, construction will occur one lane at a time to minimise disruption. Phase 2 also links with the railway in the Darnall area.
Phase Three includes Huddersfield, Elsecar to Barugh Green, Bentley to Lakeside, the Hillsborough Circular Extension and the Stannington Blue Route extension.
I asked Thomas if all goes well and both the new Regional Mayor and the Government fully back the plan, when could it become a reality? 2028 was the most optimistic timescale Thomas could envisage. The scheme is complicated as it needs agreement and cooperation with various councils. In Phase 1 Network Rail jurisdiction could cause delays and the NE Derbyshire fare zone will be complicated. Clive Betts MP has had talks concerning a possible Chesterfield, Eckington Killamarsh line and it appears NE Derbyshire are willing to come to the table. The current Crystal Peaks line goes briefly into NE Derbyshire so there is already some cooperation on this.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive would own the physical infrastructure. If the contract is not being fulfilled then the Mayoral Authority would be able to terminate the contract and appoint an Operator of Last Resort if the contract is breached.
The rails would hopefully be manufactured in local steelworks.
Lewis Chinchen, Conservative Councillor for Stocksbridge and Upper Don said “I support the expansion of the Supertram network to isolated parts of Sheffield and the wider region. “
Alexander Stafford, Conservative MP for Rother Valley said “I am very supportive of any plan that would improve public transport across Rother Valley – in particular to communities that are currently very badly served by public transport and have no current rail links, that also have some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country – for example, Maltby, Dinnington, Swallownest and Thurcroft.
Green Party Mayoral candidate Bex Whyman said “Our towns and cities across South Yorkshire deserve better connections. Connecting hospitals, universities, cities, and towns by trams, gives the county the opportunity to become the heart of innovation, connecting the people of South Yorkshire to incredible employment and educational opportunities. Not only will our business and education thrive, but it will also unleash the possibilities to be more connected again on a human level, who wouldn’t want to hop on a tram to visit their family.
Labour MP Olivia Blake added a note of caution. “If the government were serious about levelling up they wouldn’t have dragged their feet on renewing the Supertram and they would have prioritised the extension of the tram to serve the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire.”
Lib Dem group leader in Barnsley, Cllr Hannah Kitching said “ When I was the Lib Dem candidate for Penistone & Stocksbridge in the 2019 GE I talked about the need to invest in Supertram expansion; initially out to Stocksbridge and North Sheffield but also further afield. People do not live and work within local authority boundaries and the inability of the Council Leaders to work together on matters like this is holding our region back.”
With so much cross-party support surely South Yorkshire can pull together to demand extending Supertram?