PLANS for a tram-train line linking Rotherham with Sheffield city centre have been given a boost with a £150,000 grant announced by transport minister Norman Baker.
The annoucement follows several years of discussion, which originally centred on the railway line from Huddersfield to Sheffield via Penistone and Barnsley.
However, a connection from that line on to the Sheffield tramway system would have been costly, because it would have involved a flyover at Meadowhall.
The new plans, which would provide a direct rail link from Rotherham into Sheffield’s main shopping area, need a much simpler flat junction at Meadowhall, connecting the Supertram line with a freight track which runs from Tinsley South Junction into Rotherham Central.
The grant announced today will allow South Yorkshire PTE, Network Rail and Northern to develop their plans for the link, including the business case.
Mr Baker said: “Tram-trains offer passengers travelling from rural and suburban areas into city centres a viable, environmentally sound alternative to short and medium car commuting that can cut congestion and reduce overcrowding at railway stations
“These sorts of rail fleets are already in use on the continent, but this is a first for the UK. The funding we are providing for this exciting project represents a real chance for us to test whether they can be adapted successfully for South Yorkshire and the rest of the UK.”
The business and project case will examine a range of issues, including the economic and environmental benefits, and could lead to tram-trains being introduced in 2014.
Tram-trains, which are hybrid vehicles equipped for standard railway signalling as well as light rail or tramway control systems, are used in the Netherlands and Germany, where the pioneering network in Karlsruhe in particular has been extensively studied and often quoted as a model for British operators.
However, light and heavy rail vehicles are already sharing one section of line in Britain, where Tyne & Wear Metro trains use Network Rail infrastructure to reach Sunderland.