Sheffield Supertram debts to last 61 years - with £32m rail replacement on top

Supertram rails are being replaced early at a cost of �32m
Supertram rails are being replaced early at a cost of �32m

Residents will be paying for Supertram until 2056 – some 61 years after the £240m network opened after spiralling four times over budget, The Star can reveal.

Owner, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, has debts of £179.4m from ‘buying assets’ – a big chunk of which is Supertram.

It paid £13.6m in interest in 2016/17. But the debt will still be £35m in 2029 and won’t finally fall to zero until 2056 – 61 years after the network opened in 1995.

The soaring costs caused huge controversy – not least due to Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster taxpayers being forced to stump up for a service they don’t receive.

The figures are published as a new row brews over who should pay for a £32m rail replacement programme after the rails failed to last as long as predicted.

Some five miles must be ripped up across the network by next year or it could shut down by 2019.

But Barnsley and Doncaster are protesting over being asked to pay, again.

Stephen Edwards, SYPTE executive director, spoke out in support of Supertram’s legacy.

He said: “The legacy to date is one of millions of people travelling on it each year.

“It offers vital links to areas of employment for the workforce, it reduces traffic congestion, improves air quality and will include the benefits of a tram-train project to extend the network to Rotherham.

“Sheffield was first to have a modern tram network.

“We have seen many other cities build them. Supertram is good value for money if you include the reduced congestion and the improved productivity and the need to avoid further investment in roads.

“If no one had followed Sheffield’s example you might have questions.”

Meanwhile, funding must be found for Phase 2 of the rail replacement scheme, at a cost of £17m.

SYPTE is bidding for £10m from the Department for Transport, £5m from local councils and £2.4m from Supertram franchisee Stagecoach.

An SYPTE report states rails ‘have not lasted as long as predicted in the 1990s’ and ‘if funding is not secured, parts of the network would close in 2018,’ that would be followed by ‘full network closure in 2018-19’.

It is understood ‘Phase 1’, which cost £15m, was funded by the South Yorkshire councils. It was completed in 2016.

Barnsley leader Sir Steve Houghton said: “Supertram almost bankrupted us.

“If we are now saying the whole system has to be replenished Sheffield must make a greater contribution.”