A CAMPAIGN for an extension to the Supertram network into the south west of Sheffield gathered speed this week after the green light for a high speed rail station at Meadowhall.
But community representatives said they could not wait until 2033 when the trams would connect with the new station in the east end.
Trams are needed along the Sheaf Valley much sooner to relieve traffic congestion and air pollution.
“We can’t wait 20 years,” said John Brighton, secretary of the Friends of Millhouses Park. “People are living in filth and we have got to do something about it.”
The voluntary group is working with Carter Knowle and Millhouses Community Group and this week briefed Deputy Prime Minister and local MP Nick Clegg, who has indicated his broad support.
The Government envisages a tram extension - or extra trains - between Dore and Totley and the new Meadowhall station so that the benefits of high speed trains to and from London can be experienced by a large part of the population on the other side of the city centre.
For many residents in the south west, though, the driving force is traffic and its fumes on corridors such as Abbeydale Road, London Road, Ecclesall Road and Woodseats Road, which are especially congested during rush hours.
The issue of extra cars and air pollution around Abbeydale Road was a key issue when a planning inspector refused permission last year for an extension to the Sainsbury’s superstore at Millhouses, when community groups highlighted their concerns about existing problems.
Trams that could potentially stop at park and rides serving Dore and Totley, Beauchief, Millhouses, Woodseats and Heeley - attracting drivers who currently use roads through the south west of the city - are seen as the best, cleanest and cheapest solution.
Existing dormant track beds for trains could be used so that the vehicles would not have to mix with road traffic. Campaigners are rejecting the idea of more trains, which they say would be more at risk of breaking down and would have to use some busy lines.
“We have been looking to get a tram on the track bed for a number of years,” said Mr Brighton. “We are going to keep fighting the make the case for a tram in the Sheaf Valley, mostly because of the massive pollution and congestion. The traffic is going through residential areas and it is poisoning people.”
Another member of the Friends, environment consultant Hellen Smith, said the approach was “highly practical” and survey work and consultation was now required. “It needs getting people’s heads together and having the foresight to commit to it.
Trams would ease traffic jams
“It will take a lot of stamina, but these people have got the stamina.”
Plans for trams to Dore and Totley were drawn up about 20 years ago, but fell by the wayside. The proposed line was “massively over-engineered”, with trams using the roads, a flyover envisaged at Heeley and a line that would have crossed the cricket pitch in Millhouses Park, said Mr Brighton.
Mr Clegg said: “Personally I have always been extremely sympathetic with the argument that Supertram should be extended to the south west. It has long been an ambition of many of the community groups and residents I have spoken to in my own constituency.
“Clearly there is a lot of work to be done including winning the backing of the relevant local authorities, but we have opened the door to the possibility of a tram service returning to the likes of Millhouses and Dore. As a local MP, I will be making the case for these improvements to be prioritised.”
Neil Chadwick, acting director of strategy with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said there was already a commitment to a new track layout at Dore to allow faster journeys in and out of Sheffield, and an extra platform will be built at the station.
“The potential for extensions to the Supertram network and a route to south west Sheffield is being considered. But it is early stages and detailed work has not yet taken place. While no decisions have been made yet, we recognise that use of the rail corridor is one possibility that has to be considered. Sheffield City Council and Network Rail will be involved in any future work and before any definitive decisions are made the public will be consulted.”