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Light rail


I


n an ideal world, Sheffield Supertram would have spread itself further across South Yorkshire’s sprawling hilly capital than it has been able to. Most locals consider it has been a transport success story since opening 16 years


ago – Supertram’s limited capacity is often stretched to the limit. But expansive plans for urban metros everywhere have been squeezed; and so Sheffield must learn to live with what it has. Any visions of links to Rotherham, Dore and Maltby must remain just that for the foreseeable future. The best the network can hope for


is four new trams, taking the fleet to 28. A bid has gone in to the DfT for £14m of government money, and by the end of 2011 the outcome should be known. ‘We’re working up the case,’ says Ian Auckland, Sheffield city councillor with responsibility


for transport. ‘We think there’s a very strong one for a shift towards a rail-based system.’ But Sheffield’s bid must battle with


others clamouring for funds. And in the meantime, incremental, rather than dramatic, progress is improving access to the network’s outer reaches: for instance, in the north, a feeder bus service from Stocksbridge to Hillsborough; and in the west, from Stannington to the terminus at Malin Bridge. There are already park-and- ride sites but, says Auckland, ‘unfortunately in the latest round of DfT spending, others aren’t on the radar’. Work on Supertram began 20 years


ago, the fruit of feasibility studies dating from the 1970s. The city’s original trams disappeared in 1960, sacrificed to the car and the subsidised bus network. Yet, within two decades, demand for public transport


network outstripped supply. Initially run by South Yorkshire


Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), Supertram was sold to Stagecoach in 1997. SYPTE still owns the infrastructure, with Stagecoach having operation and maintenance rights until 2024. The electrically-powered system, comprising three lines, evolved in eight phases amid much upheaval: more than 30 new structures were built, including two viaducts, one underpass and retaining walls, bridges and culverts. The 29km network, requiring 60km of track bed, was completed just three months late in 1995. The system is mostly double-tracked,


with a mix of reserved alignments, central road reservations and on-street operation. Routes run from the city centre to termini at Middlewood to the north west, Meadowhall


MAY 2011 PAGE 25


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