Tuesday 18 Mar 2008



An innovative form of public transport is to be trialled for the first time in the UK on a growing railway route in Yorkshire.

Called ‘tram-trains’, the vehicles can run on both railway tracks and tram lines and will replace conventional trains currently used on the 37-mile Penistone Line between Huddersfield, Barnsley and Sheffield.

Tram-trains are lighter and greener than conventional trains. They use less fuel and weigh less which potentially reduces wear and tear on tracks, decreasing the need for disruptive maintenance works. Tram-trains have faster acceleration and deceleration rates than conventional vehicles enabling better journey times for passengers.

The trial, which starts in 2010 and will take two years, will look at the environmental benefits, operating costs and technical suitability of tram-trains as well as testing how popular the vehicles are with passengers on the route. There is an option for a second phase which would test the vehicles on the Sheffield Supertram system to see what additional benefits the vehicles can deliver when extended onto city centre tram lines.

The project is a partnership between the Department for Transport, the train operator Northern Rail and rail infrastructure owner Network Rail and seeks to establish whether tram-trains similar to those operating successfully in Europe are suitable for Britain’s railway network.

Northern Rail, which is owned by Serco-Ned Railways, will run a competition for manufacturers to build the tram-trains which Northern will lease. Network Rail will spend £15m on track improvements and alterations to stations as part of the trial representing a significant investment in the route. DfT will contribute £9m to fund the operation of the trial while Northern will bring experience from Europe through Ned Railways who operate tram-trains in The Netherlands.

Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, said: "Tram-trains will bring quicker journeys and offer a greener travel option for passengers in Yorkshire.

"This trial, the first in Britain, could herald the start of a new era in public transport. Passenger feedback is a vital ingredient in determining the success of the trial and I look forward to hearing what the people of Yorkshire think about the comfort and reliability of tram-trains."

Heidi Mottram, Managing Director, Northern Rail, said: “We are very excited to be involved in testing this new form of public transport, which will mean higher levels of comfort and a faster journey for our customers on the Penistone Line.

“This is a great opportunity for us to develop our network and attract more people to use public transport in this part of Yorkshire.”

Iain Coucher, Chief Executive, Network Rail, said: "This trial gives us a fantastic opportunity to see whether the types of technologies used in Europe can be adapted for use on our systems. We expect the lighter vehicles will result in less wear on the infrastructure - extending its lifespan, improve journey times and give the option of running future commuter services closer into city centres.

"We want to use the trial to get evidence about the practicalities of the tram-trains and assess how beneficial they will be to the UK.

"The partnership between Network Rail, the DfT and Northern Rail ensures that the needs of passengers, operators, the infrastructure operator and the local and wider community are all represented."

The Penistone Line has been chosen for the trial because it offers the chance to operate tram-trains on a route that is partly exclusive to these trains, enabling proper testing and is partly shared with other passenger and freight trains. A possible phase two of the trial will offer the potential for testing tram-trains on the Sheffield Supertram network linking through to the national rail network.

Notes to editors

The Penistone Line is 37 miles long, has 17 stations and is used by 1.2 million passengers every year Northern operates one service per hour in each direction on the route. Passenger Focus will lead on undertaking research into passenger perception of tram train. Northern press office 01904 568652/568670

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