Plans to extend the Sheffield Supertram network should be placed on hold, says South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis.
Although Supertram has completed a massive track replacement programe, Jarvis says that securing the 27-year-old system’s future should now take priority over expansion. He says the existing network needs major investment to replace worn-out vehicles and equipment.
At the same time, government backing has not yet been forthcoming for more than £408 million that has been requested to keep it running.
Jarvis said it was a struggle last year to secure emergency funding during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that only £166m of the £220m it hoped for from the Transforming Cities Fund had been forthcoming.
“Obviously the priority in recent months has been about keeping the system going,” he said.
“I’ve always said we will renew Supertram. It is an expensive project, but it is something that we will do. And a significant amount of that investment will have to come from national government.”
The mayor’s comments cast doubt on expansion into Rotherham. Doncaster and Barnsley are also keen to get to board because they pay towards Supertram without getting the benefits.
Supertram also has aspirations to extend to Doncaster Sheffield Airport and into Beighton, Stocksbridge, Heeley, Millhouses, Totley, Chapeltown, Woodhouse and Handsworth, using existing heavy rail routes.
The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive announced last year that it does not want to renew Stagecoach’s contract after it expires in 2024. It seems to favour taking Supertram completely into public ownership and creating an arms-length organisation to operate and maintain it. This is also its lowest-cost option.
Supertram is looking to replace the fleet of 25 Siemens trams with 28 new vehicles, instead of going down the road of total-life refurbishment. Although the current fleet has been boosted by seven Vossloh/Stadler Class 399 tram-trains, more vehicles are needed to increase service frequencies.
Other plans include further track improvements, an extension to the maintenance depot, improvements to tram stops, renewal of control, signalling and communications systems, and installing a better power supply.