Vossloh España has secured a £60m order from the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) to deliver seven tram trains for operations between Sheffield City Centre and Rotherham Parkgate in the UK.
The trams will run on both the existing Sheffield Supertram network and the rail network after the route is upgraded, making them the first in the country to run on both rail and tram networks.
As well as the modern traction systems of Vossloh Kiepe, the new locomotives will feature equipment suitable for both 750VDC and 25kV 50Hz power supplies to operate on both networks.
The dual-voltage system in the trams will make them suitable for operation on both light and heavy rail operating voltage, following the electrification of the Midland Mainline.
Network Rail will be responsible for the construction of a new link junction and points between the light rail and heavy rail lines near Meadowhall South to facilitate switching the trams between the two networks.
New platforms will be built at Meadowhall South and at Rotherham Parkgate, while platforms at Rotherham Central Station will be extended to accommodate the new service.
Following the commencement of the service, the first two years of operation will be used as a pilot scheme for the tram-train concept to understand and assess the technical issues involved in such operations, and as a proof-of-concept for similar services in other parts of the country.
UK Transport Minister Norman Baker said that tram-trains are innovative and high-capacity transport systems, which have proved very successful in other European cities.
"We will be monitoring the scheme over the course of the next two years and I look forward to seeing if it would be appropriate to replicate it elsewhere in the UK," Baker said.
Apart from the tram-train service, the project will also provide a further three vehicles on the Sheffield Supertram network to help meet demand at peak operating times.
Work under project will also include the electrification of a stretch of track between Rotherham Parkgate and Meadowhall, as well as construction of a 400m line that will connect the existing tramway and the Network Rail freight line, which is to be electrified at 750 V DC.
Network Rail route managing director Phil Verster said that tram-trains will offer an opportunity to improve transport links in urban areas.
"We have already learned a significant amount about how a tram train could benefit Britain’s rail network through the feasibility and design process," Verster said.
Vossloh will construct the new tram trains at its Albuixech plant near Valencia in Spain and deliver them in 2015, with services along the line scheduled to commence in 2016.
Image: Services between Sheffield City Centre and Rotherham Parkgate with the new tram-trains will start in early 2016. Photo: courtesy of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.