Siemens-Duewag Supertram in July 2010
|Owner||South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive|
|Locale||Sheffield,Rotherham South Yorkshire|
|Transit type||Light rail tram Tram-train|
|Number of lines||4|
|Number of stations||50|
|Annual ridership||11.9 million (2018/19)|
|Chief executive||Tim Bilby|
|Began operation||21 March 1994|
|Number of vehicles||25 Siemens-Duewag Supertram|
7 Stadler Citylink Tram-Train
|System length||34.6 km (21.5 mi)|
|Electrification||750 V DC Overhead line|
|Top speed||55 miles per hour (89 km/h)|
The Sheffield Supertram (officially the Stagecoach Supertram) is a light rail tram system in Sheffield, England. The infrastructure is owned by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), while private transport company Stagecoach is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the trams.
Interest in the development of a modern tram system for Sheffield mounted during the 1980s, after further planning was performed by SYPTE, the Supertram proposal was approved via an Act of Parliament during 1991. Construction of the Supertram network, which incorporated several existing heavy rail sections as well as new track, was carried out in sections, allowing for the commencement of the first revenue services during 1994. Early operations were hindered by a complex ticketing system and the initially small coverage area, contributing to disappointing ridership figures during its first years.
During 1997, in an efforts to turn around the network's performance, the operation of Supertram was privatised to Stagecoach at price of £1.15 million, who took over from South Yorkshire Supertram Limited. Following management and operational changes, as well as further expansion of the system, ridership numbers have risen considerably. The Supertram network currently consists of 50 stations across four colour-coded lines, the Blue, Purple, Yellow and Tram-Train (Black) routes. As well as connecting with local and national bus and rail services, the network serves six park and ride sites.
Starting in 2008, interest has been expressed in the launch of hybrid tram-train operations, enabling services to traverse sections of the main line rail network in addition to tramways. During 2012, this interest solidified into an experimental trial being planned, as this would be the first deployment of tram-trains anywhere in the United Kingdom. The start of tram-train operations, using a purpose-procured fleet of new Vossloh-built Class 399 Citylink electric multiple units, had been repeatedly delayed due to shortcomings in the planning of infrastructure adaptations, while significant cost overruns have also been experienced. On 25 October 2018, Supertram commenced operations of the new tram-train line from Cathedral to Rotherham Parkgate.
The origins of what would become the Supertram network came from within the ambitions that were held by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), which was initially a constituent element of the short-lived (1974-1986) South Yorkshire County Council, being assigned the role of public transport coordination. Akin to many the larger British cities, Sheffield had once possessed an extensive tram network, the Sheffield Tramway, which had been completely closed by the end of 1960 amid arguments that motorised buses offered superior economics to trams. The SYPTE took interest in an earlier and more expansive light rail proposal, deciding to investigate it further. The original plan was refined and sufficiently modified to include multiple pre-existing heavy rail alignments in advance of efforts being made to secure the required permissions to proceed.
During 1985, an Act of Parliament authorised the construction of the Supertram. The initial line, on which construction commenced during 1991, was built by the SYPTE at a cost of £240 million. Between 1994 and 1995, the first line was opened in several stages; the first section to open, which was located along a former heavy rail alignment to Meadowhall, was opened on 21 March 1994. The start of services on the Supertram came only shortly after the launch of another modern tram network, the Manchester Metrolink network.
Upon opening, the network was operated by South Yorkshire Supertram Limited, which was an originally wholly owned subsidiary company of SYPTE established to run the venture. The early years of the Supertram were not straightforward; in the eyes of some officials, the scheme was reportedly viewed as having been a failure. Running in direct competition with cheaper and more frequent buses, far greater numbers of passengers chose to continue commuting by means other than the fledgling tram network; retailers also frequently complained due to the disruption caused by the lengthy construction works performed while establishing the Supertram network. The complex ticketing system originally adopted has also been attributed as having being a source of irritance and confusion to would-be passengers.
Within the first two years of operations, it became clear that the projections for passenger numbers had been overly optimistic, while there was concern that the system represented poor value for money and did not seem to be gaining traction. Thus, the issue of what party should bear the cost became a politicised matter. Allegedly, by 1996, the councils backing the Supertram had recognised that the operation had both operational and managerial problems which required addressing, thus consultants were asked to draw up options for the system's reorganisation into a more commercially viable venture, including the franchising of Supertram and its wholesale selling-off.
During December 1997, the operating company, South Yorkshire Supertram Limited, was privatised, having been sold to the international transportation company Stagecoach for £1.15 million; the sale left multiple local councils with the long-term debt for the Supertram's establishment however. The sale price was substantially below the anticipated £80 million that the councils had hoped to raise to help pay off the accumulated debts from the system. Under the terms of the deal struck by the Labour government of the era, a measurable reduction in the system's operating costs was achieved, but it had also meant that the people of South Yorkshire were each paying 5p per week for the Supertram, a practice which was continued over many years. Stagecoach acquired the concession for the maintenance and operation of the Supertram network until 2024.
While there were initially plans for Supertram extend service coverage to a greater area of South Yorkshire, such as via envisioned lines that would have run to Barnsley and Doncaster, progress on such ambitions has been restricted. According to BBC News, there has been considerable frustration expressed amongst people outside of Sheffield that they are essentially paying for something they do not use. However, as of 2014, plans to extend Supertram are in various stages of action, and the network has been extended as time has gone on. Over time, patronage of the Supertram has typically gone up, having grown from 7.8 million passenger journeys in 1996/97, to 15.0 million during 2011/12.
The substantial increase in the Supertram's usage over the years has been credited to various factors. Industry publication Rail has pointed towards changes to route patterns, the introduction of onboard conductors, ticket simplification and refurbishment of the trams themselves having generated greater appeal amongst the travelling public. Between 2011 and 2017, both the number of passengers and operating revenue have declined; during 2016/17, the network carried 12.6 million passengers. Reasons presented for the reduction in commuter usage have included the disruptive wide-scale rail replacement effort across the Supertram network, which involved partial closures and the use of buses as temporary tram replacements, as well as the impact of cheaper petrol.
The Sheffield Supertram network is organised around Park Square and comprises four lines. The lines, with termini at Meadowhall Interchange, Rotherham Parkgate, Halfway and Hillsborough, all serve Sheffield city centre and meet at Park Square where a triangular junction was constructed to provide interchange between lines and operational flexibility. A pair of small branches serving Malin Bridge, from Hillsborough Interchange, and Herdings Park branch out from two of the main lines.
The Sheffield Supertram runs from Sheffield City Centre north-west to Middlewood and Malin Bridge via the University of Sheffield and Hillsborough; north-east to Meadowhall Interchange and Rotherham Parkgate via Attercliffe; and south-east to Halfway and Herdings Park via Norfolk Park, Manor, and Gleadless. The three main City Centre stops are located on one side of a former dual carriageway, now a single lane and reserved for buses and taxis only. These three stops are served by all routes.
The system consists of a mix of on-street running, reserved right-of-way, and former and shared railway alignments. The Middlewood and Malin Bridge lines run mainly on the street up to the City Centre. The Meadowhall line runs totally on reserved track - from Attercliffe to Meadowhall it runs on former railway line alongside a freight line to Tinsley Yard. The Rotherham Parkgate line shares the reserved Meadowhall line to Tinsley Yard and then shares the freight and main railway lines to Rotherham Parkgate. The inner part of the Halfway and Herdings Park lines consist of on-street running, with the exception of the railway station and the viaduct at Granville Road. The Herdings line then runs on reserved track, and the Halfway line crosses the county border into Derbyshire and out again on reserved lines in the countryside. This line also serves Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre.
The off-peak daytime frequencies are:
|Franchise(s)||Tram-train operator, not subject to franchising|
|Main Region(s)||South Yorkshire|
|Other Region(s)||North East Derbyshire|
|Stations called at||50|
|Route km operated||29|
Supertram began operations of the new (in 2018) tram-train line from Cathedral to Rotherham Parkgate, using seven brand new Vossloh-built Class 399 Citylink articulated electric multiple units. The existing Siemens-Duewag Supertram fleet were not upgraded for tram-train operation, so have not been registered under TOPS and cannot be used on the line as they lack the relevant Network Rail safety systems and crashworthiness. The tram-train scheme was first planned to be in service by 2015 but was delayed. The first test run (as far as Magna) was performed in the early hours of 10 May 2018 and the first gauging run all the way to Parkgate occurred in the early hours of 5 June 2018. It opened on 25 October 2018. However it was suspended later in the day due to a crash.
The Class 399 units were built in 2015/16 with the first delivered in December 2015. Until the completion of the tram-train line, some were used to provide increased capacity on the existing Supertram network. They first entered service on 17 September 2017. On 9 April 2019 a fault was found on the Class 399 units and they were withdrawn to undergo safety checks. Tram-train service was suspended and resumed during the next day. The tram-train service was suspended again on 14 December 2019, but resumed on 17 December 2019.
Stagecoach Sheffield operate the SL1 and SL1a "SupertramLink" routes between the Middlewood terminus of the yellow route and Stocksbridge, via Oughtibridge. The bus runs at the same frequency as the tram and is timetabled to connect with the tram at Middlewood, to provide additional journey opportunities. Through single, return, day and week tickets are available to allow travel on both Supertram and SupertramLink bus services.
The Supertram network operates a fleet of 25 three car trams built by Siemens-Duewag of Düsseldorf, Germany in 1992. The trams are capable of carrying 88 seated and 155 standing passengers and are 40% low floor design, the vehicles have been specially designed for gradients as steep as 10%. In the 1980s a design choice was taken to create the longest possible vehicle to avoid multiple working which resulted in a 34.8-metre (114 ft) design, the third-longest tram design in operation in Europe at the time and the longest in service in the UK until the 42.8-metre (140 ft) long Edinburgh Trams were introduced.
Launched in an initial light grey livery, following the awarding of the operating franchise to Stagecoach the trams were reliveried in Stagecoach's corporate livery from 1997. From 2006 the trams were refurbished, and a new dedicated Supertram blue-based livery was launched, rolled out by 2008.
|Class||Image||Top speed||Number||Built||Unit nos.||Notes|
The network is 29 km (18 mi) long, with 60 km (37 mi) of track. It features two types of track; tramway track where either pedestrians or road traffic share the right of way and ballasted railway track when there are no such requirements.
Tramway track consists of a grooved tramway rail set into a concrete base with troughs into which the rails are laid. Most of the track is on-street using 35G-section grooved tram rail, with BS11-80A 80 lb/yd (39.7 kg/m) flat-bottom rail elsewhere. The railway track was supplied by British Steel Corporation Track Products of Workington and laid on sleepers consisting of concrete blocks with steel ties which gives a spring feeling when travelling on these sections. The track is laid on a bed of ballast which in turn rests on a prepared formation. Street crossings are usually laid with grooved tramway rails.
Supertram is powered through 12 electric substations and fed through 107 mm2 (0.166 sq in) cross-section overhead line equipment (OHLE) wire. The substations convert the 11 kV AC supply into 750 V DC supply into the overhead. The 12 substations are situated as follows:
The overhead line equipment depends on the location. If the tracks are close together, central poles with 'steady' arms on each side are used. If the tracks are further apart, poles on either side with span wire are used. With aesthetics in mind a minimum number of traction poles are used and whenever possible the wire is anchored onto neighbouring buildings. Supertram, Sheffield City Council and landlords were in talks to try and hide anchor points as much as possible and blend them into the structures.
The contact wires are twin cadmium copper ones, twin wires being necessary because of the high installed power rating of the trams (1 megawatt). The regenerative braking on the tram feeds current back into the wires.
The rules of operation of the Sheffield Supertram are similar to those of a traditional railway. Unlike normal trains, tramways can be operated without signalling, although block signalling is sometimes necessary on single-line sections. The trams are driven on a line-of-sight basis, so that the tram can be stopped if an obstruction is spotted ahead.
Signals, however, are used to give indications to tram drivers when running on-street and at street crossings. As trams have priority at many places, it was necessary to give them different traffic light phases from motor traffic and therefore different types of indication have to be used from those applicable to motor vehicles. Signal phases for the tramway are specifically modified to account for the length of the tram. The tram signals are usually operated alongside and in conjunction with traffic signals. Signals consist of white lights arranged vertically (for go), horizontally (for stop) and a cross (for caution). Two other light arrangement indicate a point direction at junctions.
Points indicators are provided at junctions to indicate the route which is set through the points. At junctions, where Supertram and train movements can conflict with road traffic, fixed signals are provided in addition to points indicators. A points indicator may only be passed if it displays the correct route indication for the tram concerned and, where fixed signals are provided, if both points indicators and fixed signals are set for the correct route.
Line-side signals give instructions or warnings to tram drivers. To distinguish them from normal road signs, they are diamond-shaped. The most common are speed restrictions which are in miles per hour. These are particularly necessary on road-running where trams travel along with road traffic.
The route a tram is to take is computer-controlled. The route is set on a device in the tram before a journey is started, and on approach to junctions, a signal is sent from the tram to a device known as a VIS loop buried beneath the track. This automatically sets the points in the correct direction.
The depot is located at Nunnery Square and occupies the former carriage sidings alongside the Sheffield-Lincoln railway line. It was designed and constructed by Balfour Beatty on 2.6 hectares (6.4 acres) of land and consists of a three-line workshop building, six stabling sidings, a turning loop, engineers sidings and sundry equipment.
The main offices and reception, supervisor's offices, plant room, staff mess rooms, paint shop, first aid are on the first floor level on the South side of the building. The south-west of the building is home to the Operations and Power Controller's office, where live control of the running of the service is monitored using SCADA, CCTV and radio contact. The depot substation is also located in the south-west corner, two 600 kVA transformer-rectifiers supply the tramway overhead and an 800 kVA transformer feeds the depot facilities.
In the workshop itself are two through-running lines (numbered 8 and 9) and line 10, a stub end. All lines have inspection pits and line 8 possesses a Hegenscheidt wheel lathe. This machine allows wheel turning whilst both sets of doors are closed. The wheelsets are turned in situ. High level access is provided on lines 9 and 10 for servicing of equipment boxes and pantographs. An automated washing machine is located on line 7. The site's security is provided by CCTV and fence guarding and is under control of security personnel housed in the operations centre. Road access is from Woodbourn Road at the end of the depot.
The site was, before the arrival of Supertram, already dedicated to the railway industry, Nunnery engine shed filled most of the site whilst lines of the Midland Railway, Great Central Railway and London & North Eastern Railway irrigated the area and served collieries.
The Supertram has 50 stops, which are generally 26.5 m (87 ft) long and 3 m (9.8 ft) deep and are of a network-wide standard making them easy to understand and use. The design incorporates recommendations made by the Cranfield Institute of Technology who studied ergonomics for both able-bodied and disabled users.
The platforms are 37.5 cm (14.8 in) high, with a 1:20 slope. The platform edge comprises a 60 cm (24 in) wide light-coloured textured paving with strips of 40 cm (16 in) wide edge warning tactile strip. Directional guidance tactile paving crosses the width of the platform to coincide with the tram door locations.
The Supertram network possesses a few remarkable structures. Two viaducts and one underpass are of interest: the two viaducts carry Supertram onto Park Square (a major road junction in the centre of the city), one of them being a six-span viaduct, the other the bowstring steel arch Park Square Bridge. The underpass takes the tram underneath the busy A57 roundabout outside the University of Sheffield.
Prior to the Stagecoach takeover, ticketing was done via ticket machines, provided by Abberfield Technology of Australia. These blue ticket machines dispensed adult single ride tickets, senior citizen concessionary tickets and child concessionary tickets. As well as singles, the machines sold multi-packs at a discount. Fare tables were shown on the machines with the validity of the different prices. To travel, each ticket had to be validated in a yellow machine on the platform. The ticket defined the type of passenger and trip. On validation, an overprint was added, giving the tramstop code, time and date of validation and the point of validation.
As the machines did not dispense change, nearby shop-owners were often asked for change to purchase tickets from the machines. There were also problems with machine reliability. When Stagecoach took over South Yorkshire Supertram, it removed the ticket machines and began selling tickets on board. This change brought two key positives: an improved staff presence on board each tram, and meant that passenger's tickets could be systematically checked.
Stagecoach Sheffield period tickets are valid on the trams and on Stagecoach buses, and period SYPTE tickets covering Sheffield or the whole of South Yorkshire are valid on Supertram as well as buses and trains. Unlike some other tramway and light rail operators in England, Supertram accepts concessionary travel passes issued by any English local authority.PlusBus tickets are accepted as well.
|Estimated passenger journeys made on Sheffield Supertram per financial year|
|Estimates from the Department for Transport|
The proposed extensions to the Supertram network have undergone many changes over time, with some being cancelled and others running over budget and suffering from delays in their implementation.
In May 2003 the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority announced plans to extend the Supertram network to Hellaby, a suburb of Rotherham, Dore, a suburb of Sheffield and Ranmoor, Sheffield. So far, in February 2020 none of these extensions, estimated (in 2003) to cost a total of £400 million has been built.
In August 2008 plans were announced for the trial of diesel-electro hybrid tram trains on a route via Network Rail tracks to Huddersfield via Meadowhall, Barnsley and Penistone. The fleet of five tram trains, costing £9 million was expected to be in operation by the end of 2010 with the whole project costing £24 million for the 37 mile route. It was planned that the hourly Northern Rail service from Barnsley to Huddersfield would be scrapped, being replaced by a more frequent tram service with more stops and a faster service due to the trams' more rapid acceleration. Plans were also announced for a second trial between Rotherham Central and Sheffield at the same time.
In September 2009 plans for the Sheffield to Huddersfield route were abandoned. The Sheffield to Rotherham route was to go ahead, with trams using a Network Rail freight line. The initial plan was to use electric vehicles capable of operating on either 750 V DC or 25 kV AC. Trams are planned to go via Rotherham Central to a new station at Rotherham Parkgate. The scheme was estimated to require £15 million, later revised upwards to £18.7 million to build when first proposed, but was eventually expected to cost £75.1m. The proposed route was to have been in operation by 2015, later put back until October 2018 after a series of delays. Part of the delay was due the transport secretary to failing to approve the building of a 150m (164yd) section of track at Tinsley in a timely manner. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was critical of Network Rail's initial estimates for the cost of modifications to the route calling them, "wholly unrealistic". The PAC also noted that Network Rail and the Department for Transport could not provide figures on how much money had been spent on a now cancelled line electrification project. Part of the unexpected rise in the cost of creating the route and the delay was due to the need to demolish and rebuild the College Road road over-bridge next to Rotherham Central station. It was thought that the ballast beneath the railway line could have been excavated to provide headroom for the catenary but this proved not to be feasible.
In 2017 the Sheffield City Region invited public consultation on The Sheffield City Region Transport Strategy 2018-2040 policy document (draft for consultation November 2017) in which it was revealed that only 1% of the population used the Supertram network on journeys to work in 2011. The number of passengers on the Supertram network increased from 2 million in the 1994/1995 financial years to over 12 million in the 2016/2017 financial years.
The tram-train extension to Rotherham opened on 25 October 2018, with a fleet of seven Vossloh Citylink Class 399 tram-trains. This involves trams operating on Network Rail's line from Tinsley to Rotherham station with a short extension to Rotherham Parkgate Shopping Centre, after travelling on the Supertram line from Sheffield Cathedral to Meadowhall South/Tinsley. The station at Rotherham Central is a combined tram stop and railway station. To cater for the tram train services, platforms 1 and 2 at Rotherham Central were extended, with the extensions being numbered platforms 3 and 4 respectively. The stop at Parkgate is a single platform terminus.
The Supertram network has been accused of increasing the dangers of roads in the area, particularly in wet weather.