Almost three years late, five times the cost and in a crash on its first day but leaders have insisted the Sheffield to Rotherham tram train is already proving its worth.
The £75 million scheme launched on October 25 – almost three years later than originally planned – and at five times the original budget.
It was then involed in a crash with a lorry carrying gas canisters just hours after welcoming passengers for the first time.
But, those behind the scheme, including Netwrok Rail, operator Stagecoach Supertram and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
Rob McIntosh, Network Rail route managing director, said the scheme will bring ‘real benefits for South Yorkshire’.
He said: “Having worked in the industry for 22 years, I’ve seen first-hand the difference improved connections makes to communities and economies and I’m proud to be able to work in a sector which can have such a positive impact on people’s lives.
“The tram train pilot is the first of its kind in Britain and, although it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, it will bring real benefits for South Yorkshire.
“The project will improve connectivity between Sheffield and Rotherham, which offers more choices for people across South Yorkshire in education, employment, business and leisure.
“Not only will this bring economic benefits, more importantly it will enhance quality of life as it widens the opportunities available to people living in the area and it’s great that the service is being well used since it opened.”
Tim Bilby, managing director of Stagecoach Supertram, said it had been a ‘challenging and exciting journey’ to develop the tram-train.
He said: “Since the launch, we’ve had some fantastic feedback from passengers. One passenger said that she’s managed to save up to 30 minutes off her morning commute and we’ve had comments from customers with disabilities, who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters who have said that the low level entry means they can travel across the region much easier and with greater independence than previously.
“So it’s great news for the future of the region and for tram train. We’re very much looking forward to seeing what is around the corner for our ground – breaking new mode of transport.”
Stephen Edwards, executive director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said the service offered a ‘genuine alternative’ to driving.
He said: “Tram train will provide economic benefits, too. Better strategic transport links and infrastructure between businesses in the two areas, and the modern manufacturing facilities along the Sheffield Rotherham Don Valley Corridor, will help to strengthen our shared economy – with the ability to attract new investment and trading relationships.
“It’s also helping to connect the people and places in Sheffield and Rotherham and beyond to employment, education and leisure locations on and around the tram train route, offering the opportunity to increase footfall in our town and city centres, retail and sporting facilities and popular cultural attractions.
And Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said the tram-train demonstrated how working together can lead to success and urged councillors locked in devolution talks to take note.