Securing Supertram future is 'priority before talk of further expansion' as Sheffield City Region mayor appeals for Government support
South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis has said the renewal of Supertram and getting the backing of Government must come first before looking to lay the groundworks for expansion of the service.
The mayor said he had to fight ‘tooth and nail’ alongside other metro mayors with tram networks to secure emergency funding from Government to keep services running during the pandemic.
But Supertram, which covers Sheffield and parts of Rotherham through tram-train, is due for renewal in 2024 and costs are likely to be over £400 million – with a contribution from councils.
Government handed Sheffield City Region £166 million in the guise of the Transforming Cities Fund which the region had to bid for – less than the £220 million expected.
Ministers had ‘indicated support’ for the renewal of Supertram but mayor Jarvis said the Government is consumed with the pandemic and the finances associated with the crisis.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Service, Mayor Jarvis said: “I’m in constant talk with the Department for Transport about renewing Supertram.
“Obviously the priority in recent months has been about keeping the system going. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get additional money out of national government to keep Supertram running, and we’ve been able to do that.
“We’ve got to look at our public transport system in the round, so I don’t look at buses, or the tram in isolation, because we need an integrated network, but we are working closely with the DfT nationally and with Sheffield Council, to ensure that we are in a financial position to invest in the renewal of Supertram.
“I’ve always said we will renew Supertram is an expensive project to do but that is something that we will do with a significant amount of that investment will have to come from national government.
“But what we don’t yet know is where Government are post pandemic in terms of what money they will make available. There is no reduction in our commitment to make sure that we renew and then enhance Supertram.”
Tentative plans are afoot for potential future tram-train expansion which includes a route beyond Parkgate in Rotherham and adding stops on existing routes at Swinton, Warmsworth in Doncaster and the town centre.
Places in Sheffield like Beighton, Stocksbridge, Heeley, Millhouses, Totley, Chapeltown, Woodhouse and Handsworth could all in future become part of the tram-train network, using existing rail routes.
Places like Meadowhead and other stops along the A61 Chesterfield Road could also be used in a later expansion plan.
Sheffield City Region bosses are keen to expand the service to Barnsley and Doncaster. Both councils pay a levy towards the network without directly benefiting.
Mayor Dan Jarvis has previously said that there is an ambition to roll the network out from Waverley towards Mexborugh before a terminus at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and also towns in the Barnsley Dearne Valley area.
Plans laid out for the renewal of the service includes improvements to the network with a fleet of close to 30 trams, track improvements, better facilities for passengers, refurbishment and extension of the depot, renewal of control, signalling and communications systems and renewed and enlarged power supply.
All four South Yorkshire councils and the Sheffield City Region will pay a percentage of the renewal but this has reportedly fallen from as much as 25 per cent to seven per cent of the cost.
Doncaster and Barnsley councils have voiced opposition in the past of paying for renewal when the services do not serve the respected boroughs.
Stagecoach has responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the network until 2024 but ownership of the asset remains with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
Sheffield City Region transport bosse have previously said the current preferred model after 2024 is that the operation of the network be carried out by an organisation owned by the public sector with renewal works to 2028 managed by Sheffield City Region.
When asked if there was pressure to expand into Barnsley and Doncaster, Mayor Jarvis said: “I’ve got to balance that resource equally and fairly across South Yorkshire and that’s the job of the mayor. That’s why you need somebody who can actually look at South Yorkshire in the round, look at what resources are available, and then allocate it to best effect.
“Supertram is an important part of our network but currently doesn’t service all of South Yorkshire. So for those bits that aren’t serviced by Supertram at the moment, we have to look at how we can use resource in order to invest in the transport infrastructure in those bits of South Yorkshire, so that those communities and businesses also feel the benefit of the money that we’re we’re now unlocking from devolution.
“I’m ambitious for what we want to achieve here in South Yorkshire, we all know that our public transport system is not where it needs to be, it’s not fit for the 21st century.”