Network Rail’s (NR) £58m pilot project to run trams on railway lines in South Yorkshire between Rotherham and Sheffield, UK will be delayed by a year to 2017.

The new tram-train service that will connect Sheffield, Meadowhall shopping centre, and Rotherham via local tram routes and NR lines was initially due to start this year and to be finished in 2016.

The project was delayed as NR was awaiting approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) to build the 150m track connecting both tram and rail networks in Tinsley.

"This is an ambitious and pioneering pilot. We expect all the partners to work together to bring the trams into service in 2017."

In March, NR submitted an application to connect these networks, and now has to apply for a new Transport and Works Act order from the DfT.

A Network Rail spokeswoman was quoted by the BBC as saying: "The combination of the complexity of the project, added to the need to apply for powers to build the link between the two networks means that the full tram-train service will not be introduced until 2017.

"We apologise for this delay but remain positive that the introduction of tramtrain will not only benefit passengers in South Yorkshire, but lead the way for many other similar schemes to benefit passengers around the country."

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Compared to conventional trains, the new tram-trains are expected to be lighter, more energy efficient and have faster acceleration and deceleration, reducing journey times.

The project is being managed by a consortium of the DfT, NR, Northern Rail, Sheffield Stagecoach Supertram, and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. Vehicles are being supplied by transport technology manufacturer Vossloh.

In addition to the new track at Tinsley, the project will also include electrification of the line, as well as the extension of platforms at Rotherham Parkgate and Rotherham Central station.

A DfT spokesperson was quoted by as saying: "The tram-train scheme is an innovative project which will boost the local economies of South Yorkshire, and provide better connections between Rotherham and Sheffield.

"This is an ambitious and pioneering pilot, but we know the delays are frustrating for customers. We expect all the partners to work together to bring the trams into service in 2017."