Awaiting infrastructure completion: tram-train unit No 399001 undertakes a manoeuvre inside Nunnery depot in Sheffield on 13 January 2017.
Mike Haddon

TRAM-TRAIN SERVICES between Sheffield and Rotherham are due to start operating in the second half of 2018.

South Yorkshire Supertram has submitted a track access application to the Office of Rail and Road which states that testing of Class 399 tram-train vehicles on the main line will begin in May of that year, with passenger services commencing ‘in the second half of 2018’.

The tram-train project has suffered a series of delays, chiefly concerned with infrastructure work carried out by Network Rail; services were originally planned to begin in 2015.

A trial service for two years, funded by the Department for Transport, is due to link Sheffield and Rotherham via the existing Supertram network and then via a chord at Tinsley onto Network Rail infrastructure. New low-level platforms will be built at Rotherham Central and Parkgate, the latter a new station, solely for the use of tram-trains. Other infrastructure works include building the chord and electrification of the heavy rail network at 750V.

Seven dual-voltage Class 399 vehicles have been procured from Stadler, all of which have been delivered. These have the capability of operating at 25kV AC, should the power supply be converted at a later date. The vehicles are due to be introduced first onto the existing Supertram network; South Yorkshire PTE told Modern Railways that it hopes to begin driver training in April ahead of the vehicles entering passenger service this summer.

The service will comprise three tram-train services per hour between Sheffield and Rotherham, with Supertram seeking access rights for 54 weekday/Saturday services and 51 Sunday services between the hours of 06.00 and midnight. Four of the Class 399 vehicles will be dedicated to the service at any one time. If the two-year trial is successful, tram-train will then continue to run as a local service.


Meanwhile, the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce has rejected a proposal to use tram-train on the Leeds-Harrogate line, which was put forward by Greg Mulholland, Parliamentary Light Rail Group Chairman and local MP. It fears that tram-train operation, serving a new city centre loop in Leeds and providing a direct link to Leeds/ Bradford Airport, will frustrate and delay current plans for doubling the present service to every 15 minutes before 2019 as well as the proposed Virgin Trains East Coast direct through services from Harrogate to London King’s Cross every two hours. It is also concerned that tram-trains might offer a less comfortable travelling environment than heavy rail trains.

Instead, the Harrogate Line Supporter Group has proposed a new ‘cross-city’ heavy rail link which would see the existing York-Harrogate-Leeds service extended to Bradford, and a separate Knaresborough – Skipton service, assuming the proposed electrification of the Harrogate line in Control Period 6 (2019-24) still goes ahead, or possibly the use of bi-mode trains. However, both proposed services would need to reverse in Leeds station, leading some critics to question the artificiality of such a ‘through’ service. Harrogate claims that geography precludes a direct heavy rail connection to the airport and continues to prefer the proposed Parkway station north of Horsforth on the existing line, with a bus link to the airport, rather than the proposed direct light rail link, as it would be cheaper and able to be completed much more quickly.