Saturday, 18 July 2015


Like Liverpool and Blackpool, I visited Sheffield on a day trip from Manchester during my stay there in early July 2015. On Monday, 6th, I met up with a good friend there and together we wanted to explore the system, altough for me there was actually nothing new to see since my visit in 2005, except for the new livery introduced shortly after that visit.

Supertram at Cathedral - with their red front, the trams still look colourful on rainy days!

Unfortunately, the weather was not too good, so I only managed to get a few good shots for my "Tram Atlas Britain & Ireland", now due for publication in October 2015. But anyway, we rode the sections we could, because this year, in different phases, many sections are closed for track renewal, so we had to do the section between the railway station and Gleadless Towend on a replacement bus, and unfortunately we got one with a more direct route and only found out later that there was another one which runs mostly along the tram route. Anyway, it was still interesting to ride on the Supertram again, and I eventually came to the conclusion that technically-speaking, it is probably the best system in Britain. The good old Duewag cars do a really good job, provide a smooth ride and take all curves and bends at good speed without making strange noises, so I would rate it "best tram track in the UK"! Also, the comfortable seats are worth mentioning, similar to what you find on Germany's most luxurious light rail system in Stuttgart.

Comfortable seating like in Stuttgart

Operated by Stagecoach, they offer a cheap day pass for just 3.90 GBP also valid on buses, but as we had to find out later, only valid on Stagecoach buses, not on First buses, which also run on urban routes, so that was a bit weird, as if there was a two-class transport service, one first-class offering trams and buses, and another second-class with just First buses. There are also more global day passes covering all trams, trains and buses in South Yorkshire. Tickets are sold and checked by conductors on the trams. With trams every 10 minutes on all lines, the service is particularly good on the western leg towards Hillsborough where there is thus a tram every 5 minutes.
Sheffield is the only city in the UK to use proper colour-coding for its lines, whereas in Manchester colours are just used on maps for each routing but you would nowhere find the words "Yellow Line" or "Yellow Route" as you would in Sheffield.

At Gleadless Townend, we had to change from tram to bus

The curious thing about the Sheffield Supertram is the fact that it was built and opened within a short period of time, but since its "completion" in 1995, it has not seen a single extension added to it! Being quite successful and popular, one might expect that more routes would have been built in the meantime.

Supertram approaching the terminus at Malin Bridge, only a short branch off the main Hillsborough route

Sheffield is currently building the UK's first tram-train route, with a branch from Meadowhall South to Rotherham. I'm not quite sure whether this was the most obvious route for such a pilot project. I guess the tram-trains will not be able to compete with the travel time offered by normal regional trains, the only advantage is that passengers will be taken directly into the city centre in Sheffield, although the main railway station is not that far from it anyway, and connected by trams. Otherwise, the new route doesn't really serve any important areas, and the Parkgate station at the namesake shopping mall in Rotherham could just be built as a normal train station, too.


Supertram (Official Stagecoach site)

Supertram at UrbanRail.Net

1 comment:

  1. During the late 1990s, the Sheffield tram systems was generally considered to be a failure, and this is why it was never extended. Passenger numbers were much lower than expected, which may in part be explained by the predicted figures being to high in the first place (maybe to attract government money?). However, there is more to it. While the Sheffield system was being built, the population numbers of the city continued to decline, even more so in the Hillsborough area (where both the yellow and blue lines run), with high rise council estates being demolished to be replaced by terraced and low rise housing in much lower densities. So people were moving out of the neighbourhoods that the trams were going to serve, just as the system was being built! The number of P&R places, that could have partly compensated for this, was disappointing to start with, although this has improved a lot during more recent years. Competition with private bus companies was also fierce, at least until Stagecoach took over some of the urban bus routes: now part of the bus system is provided by the same company that is operating the trams.
    Between completion of the Sheffield tram system in 1995 and the early 2000s, in fact plans did exist to expand the network, in a way quite similar to Manchester's "big bang". However, the general feeling at the time was that the system was a failure (quite wrongly, passenger numbers were in fact rising) and all plans were scrapped.
    Andre Mulder


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