Posted 5th August 2008 | 7 Comments

Penistone line is chosen for £24m tram trains trial

Under phase two of the project it is planned that tram trains will link into the Sheffield Supertram system.

NEW-style tram trains could be running by the end of 2010 on a line in the Pennines as part of the first phase of a £24 million trial.

The trains, which are used on many routes in Germany, will be sharing tracks with conventional trains on the 37-mile Penistone line, which runs between Sheffield and Huddersfield, via Barnsley.

The two-year trial involves Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, which is part-funding the project.

The aim is to evaluate the potential for running tram trains on main rail routes which could then link into street-running systems such as Sheffield’s Supertram network.

Engineers and project planners face a number of major engineering and safety issues but it is believed that such trains could be environmentally friendly and would help raise capacity and cut track maintenance costs.

The trains will differ considerably from the ‘light’ railway systems used only on dedicated lines and routes.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million. The trains will have to be equipped with braking systems suitable for on-street running and a Train Protection Warning System which is required for running on lines with ‘heavy’ rail passenger and freight trains.

During a special briefing in Sheffield, project leaders said the Penistone line was chosen for the trial after evaluating 22 routes, which led to a shortlist of seven.

Currently Northern Rail runs a one hourly service on the line.

The route best met the objectives and offered the best value for money.

It is envisaged that, under phase one, tram trains would share tracks with other trains between Sheffield and Barnsley via the Meadowhall Inter-change, while on the 21 miles between Barnsley and Huddersfield only tram trains would run.

The stretch is chiefly single track with two passing loops and conventional colour light signalling. Line speeds are typically 50 mph.

The second phase of the trial will involve linking into Sheffield’s Stagecoach Super-tram network, which runs between Rotherham Central and Sheffield.

Simon Coulthard, senior commercial schemes sponsor for Network Rail, said track renewals would be carried out between Barnsley and Huddersfield before the tram trains were introduced.

He said the trial would help to determine costs, and safety implications in terms of crash-worthiness and the trains’ on-board features.

Journey times could be reduced, even with additional station stops, because of the trains more rapid acceleration.

Barry Graham, business development manager for Northern Rail, said: “We could get further benefits if we were able to rewrite the timetable but there is intensive use on parts of the route chosen, so the scope for changing the timetable is fairly constrained.

“This is ground-breaking work with information which will be shared across the industry. This is a test of our [the industry’s] ability to respond to the management of change.”

During the Penistone line test period passengers reactions will be sought and technical data collected.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Liz Parkhurst, Barnsley, S. Yorks

    Sounds like a good idea! And, while we're about it, can't we have the Woodhead Tunnel re-opened, and the train/tram line going to Manchester again? Freight as well as passengers, of course, let's keep heavy transport off the roads as much as possible.

  • Gareth, Blyth, UK

    Now if only government would use some common sense and postpone the decision on Metro fleet replacement in Tyne and Wear until this trial is finished. Then we might have a sensible way of delivering rail services to the AB&T corridor and south of Newcastle / Gateshead


    Does this mean that the track will be doubled? This would increase capacity on this route mainly between Huddersfield and Dodworth which is mainly single line working apart from passing loops.Two tramtrains an hour in each direction would be brilliant and offer more choice.Also there is a serious issue with car parking at some stations on this route. This would help gain more revenue on the trains if there were more capacity for carparking in order for people to get to work.And less cars on the road!

  • will, manchester

    the problems on the uk rail network are mostly caused because of capacity, and the exhorbitant charges that the rolling stock companies levy on the train operating companies for leasing of the trains. it is the tories who got us into this mess. network rail are helpless because they are in the middle of a broken system which no-one can get us out of.

  • David Spencer, Bolton, Lancashire, UK

    The two previous commenteurs are right. Stop pussy footing around and get on with it. It works in Germany and it will work in UK so get on with it.!

  • Alan Kennedy, Chesterfield, UK

    I am rather disappointed that this report does not highlight many of the shortcomings of the trial, such as how the platform height issue will be resolved, where the environmental benefits are, the fact the trains will have no loos and fewer seats, and what happens the £9m worth of tram trains if the DfT gets cold feet at the end of the trial.

    It works in Germany, so why the trial?

  • Dorian Angry, lowestoft

    Just do it. Why in Britain do we pussy foot around with mega million pound projects which should be simple, with ifs and buts, consultants' fees, inflated costs - just do it, just try it. Aaaaagh, we are useless. Just look at Mallorca, they have revitalised their railways (true their Metro has had a problem or two): smaller population, less money - they just have the will to do it. Oh sorry, these things are called "aspirations" and laughed at by Network Rail....