The Transport & Works Act Order for the UK’s tram-train pilot between Sheffield and Parkgate was granted on 19 November, just as the first Citylink Class 399 vehicle (numbered 201) left the Vossloh works in Valencia for the overland journey to Santander and then by freight ferry on 23 November to Southampton. Final delivery to Sheffield Supertram’s Nunnery depot took place on 1 December.
The TWA Order allows the construction of the 160m chord connecting the existing Sheffield Supertram Meadowhall route and the Network Rail freight line at Tinsley, plus the electrification at 750V dc of this line and the existing passenger line through Rotherham Central station to Parkgate where a siding terminal will be constructed. Seven Citylink tram-trains are expected to be delivered over the next few months with four having wheel profiles adapted for tram-train use and three being for use on the existing network. All will have the facility to operate on 25kV electrified lines when the proposed electrification of the Midland Main Line is completed in the area.
It is expected that the first vehicle will enter service on the existing network in May. The line connections and electrification plus adaptations to Rotherham Central station and the construction of the terminal at Parkgate will not be ready until early 2017.
The GBP58m (EUR80m) officially remains a pilot, which will run for two years to a 20-minute headway using three of the new 37m Citylink vehicles with one spare.
The core objectives of the pilot are to understand the cost benefits, technical and operational challenges of running lighter vehicles on the national rail network, develop relevant technical standards, examine the practicality of tram-train operation and gauge passenger perception. The operation will continue as a local service if the pilot is successful.