£1.46m ‘real time’ tram system in Sheffield slammed

Alistair Nicoll frustrated at tram signs which are inaccurate
Alistair Nicoll frustrated at tram signs which are inaccurate

A ‘real time’ information system for Sheffield’s trams has come under fire – for not always giving accurate timings.

The LED displays have been installed at tram stops in a bid to provide up-to-date departure times to the public for the first time.

But Middlewood resident Alistair Nicoll has complained to South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and tram operator Stagecoach Supertram as he says the £1.46m system is not running correctly three months after implementation.

On occasions, passengers can only see which trams are timetabled to arrive, not those which are actually about to turn up, and sometimes trams will depart at different times to the displayed schedule time.

An email sent to Mr Nicoll, and seen by The Star, from SYPTE says that not all trams are being tracked for real time travel information because the new technology will not work alongside older equipment on the network, which is more than 20 years old.

Retired market researcher Mr Nicoll, aged 63, said: “I have noticed this problem more and more, it is a regular occurrence that the system is providing false information.

“It’s providing completely wrong information and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.”

Mr Nicholl said he waited at the Cathedral tram stop on October 10 at 3.20pm when the display said the next tram to arrive would be a yellow service – and then the blue one arrived. The next message said a blue service was due, but then a yellow service arrived.

On the same day at Crystal Peaks, the display said the next tram would be a blue service in two minutes but no tram arrived. The message then changed to say a blue tram would arrive in 11 minutes.

And on October 14, Mr Nicoll witnessed signs at Middlewood saying two trams were due in the next 12 minutes – only to find out later that the service was suspended because of a car on the line at Shalesmoor.

Crowds were waiting at the stop and only discovered trams were not running when a tram link bus driver stopped and made calls to ask what had happened before taking passengers on his bus.

Mr Nicoll said: “This begs the question, why was the next tram being shown as coming in nine or 10 minutes as it would have been an impossibility if it was stuck on the other side of the accident?

“Here was a time when passengers needed information but were badly let down.”

Messages on displays have now been updated to say the system is still ‘under test’, and they have two time formats – one for trams being tracked, and one for those that are only timetabled. The transport executive said full ‘real time’ information would be available by the end of 2015.

A spokesman said: “The screens are currently being tested to make sure the technology is right before the system is fully introduced. The system works by tracking GPS on trams to send real time information to the screens. As this is a brand new system, it takes time to introduce the technology and make sure it’s working. We hope to have the whole network on real time as soon as possible.”