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Light rail

‘We are challenging the way the industry has worked and, through our partners and suppliers, seek radical solutions’

Although the trams have pre-recorded

announcements for stops, Jenkinson would like to see more information for passengers. ‘On the buses we have a system telling you when the next bus is due, and I hope they’ll use that for trams,’ he said. ‘But, generally, they’re reliable and turn up when they’re meant to.’

Meanwhile, Auckland is calling for more

Stagecoach marked the 50th anniversary of the withdrawal of Sheffi eld’s original trams by repainting one of its current fl eet in the former Sheffi eld Corporation livery. Picture courtesy of HMG Paints

to the north east and Halfway to the south east; with short branches to Herdings Park and Malin Bridge. The three main lines converge near Park Square. By largely using existing heavy rail alignments, the line to the Meadowhall retail complex was ready by 1994, and a purpose-built depot built adjacent to it. Meadowhall Interchange is the only double-tracked terminus, linking Supertram with heavy rail and bus services. All service the regional shopping centre. But complex arrangements needed for

street-running sections delayed completion of all routes until 1995. Supertram hasn’t always had an easy ride: urban clearance along parts of the route and fare cutting by bus operator rivals meant that, for several years, it ran below capacity. But that’s gradually changed amid a refurbishment programme, competitive pricing and free local travel for over-60s. Among the most visible changes

since the network began running is a refurbishment of the German-built Düwag-Siemens Supertrams, three-part, double-ended, and chosen for their power to cope with Sheffi eld’s gradients. A three- year project carried out by Atkins Rail, and fi nished in 2008, was designed to brighten up the interiors and improve access for the disabled. Ten seats, fi ve at each end, were

PAGE 26 MAY 2011

identifi ed for priority users, such as the disabled and elderly. Stop request buttons were re-designed with the introduction of Braille markings. The belated introduction of on-board

conductors selling single, day, and weekly tickets has been welcomed. ‘At the start there were ticket machines on the platforms, but these were being vandalised and even lifted by JCB,’ says Auckland. Ian Jenkinson, who chairs a local

passenger transport user group, is also in favour of the human touch provided by conductors. ‘It reassures customers if there’s a member of staff on board,’ he says. Unusually for a public transport system,

albeit one running on a modest scale, neither Auckland nor Jenkinson have ever received any complaints. ‘It’s running at capacity and to time,’ says Auckland. That isn’t to say things are perfect – for instance, Auckland feels strongly that Supertram should accommodate bicycles; but says Stagecoach has concerns. ‘We’ve had lots of arguments about why

it can’t be done – protruding handlebars and bikes having to be carried in areas reserved for the disabled, but I think it would encourage another healthy mode of transport. We’d like an experiment to see how it works in practice.’

integration with rival bus operator First, for ‘better-value through-ticketing at reasonable prices’.

Jenkinson agrees. But while that sounds

simple enough to arrange, the passenger transport executive would need to be involved. ‘Operators can’t speak directly to each other about fares and timetables because of competition laws,’ he says. Although the bid for four new trams is

well-documented, Stagecoach is saying little about any other plans it might have. Rail Professional had hoped to discuss

these with managing director Tim Shoveller, as well as Supertram’s profi tability over the years and whether record petrol prices are driving more people on to the network. However, a Stagecoach spokeswoman said: ‘A new management structure was put in place fairly recently and we’re keen to give that some time to settle in before carrying out any interview.’

Supertram in numbers

■ Construction cost: £240m ■ Fully opened: 1995 ■ Passenger numbers: Around 15 million a year

■ Cheapest single fare: £1.50. Returns not available but Dayrider costs £3.50 and a monthly ticket £47.50

■ Tram capacity: 250, with 88 seats arranged face-to-face. Low-fl oor accessibility at same height as station platform

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