Consultation on the future of Supertram

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) are consulting on the future of the Supertram network. The tram network requires substantial investment (around £240m) to continue running after 2024.

CycleSheffield response:

A high quality mass transit system is vital to provide an attractive alternative to private car use for people in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. CycleSheffield therefore support the renew and modernise option in the consultation. We also support the expansion of the tram network.

However, the current system is the biggest cause of accidents and injuries to people cycling in Sheffield. CycleSheffield has received over 560 tram track accident reports since January 2015 and it is likely many other accidents will have gone unrecorded in this period. Therefore since the Supertram opened in 1994 many thousands of people will have had accidents and injuries whilst cycling as a result of the tram tracks. Sheffield Council are well aware of the issue and have produced a number of reports about the problem. The presence of the onroad tram tracks also act as a barrier to more people cycling due to understandable safety concerns.

Any renewal or expansion of the system needs to take this into account and provide safe cycling routes and crossings designed in from the start. Tram lines should be accompanied by parallel, separate cycle routes. Particular attention should be focused on tram platforms and places where the tram tracks join or leave the carriageway at an acute angle – these are the locations where the majority of cycle accidents occur.

Trams should carry bikes to allow better integration between cycling and public transport, as they do in Edinburgh, on the Newcastle Metro and London Underground.

Better integration between tram and cycling infrastructure has the potential to greatly increase patronage by extending the reach of the tram network. For example, by providing bike stands and secure bike storage at tram stops together with high quality cycle routes to the tram stops.

Photo of Amsterdam tram with seperate cycle paths @projectsfromNL

6 thoughts on “Consultation on the future of Supertram

  1. Hi Dexter,
    I agree with most of what you say. More extensive, reliable and frequent public transport is essential to manage down pollution and reduce congestion on Sheffield’s roads.
    Integration of this with the rail network, pedestrian, cycling and car commuting routes is essential.

    Issues with the existing system (Supertram) include:
    – cost and disruption to lay rails (which limits scope)
    – safety issues for cyclists
    – poor/costly integration with other systems (eg cost of tram/rail link)
    – (emerging) costs of maintenance

    Options that would be good to consider would be
    – replacing trams with trolley-busses – they still use electricity from the overhead cables, but don’t need tracks so they should be cheaper to deploy, and they can run on batteries for up to 15Km beyond they overhead wires. (Generally only the capacity of a bus though)
    – using Autonomous Road Transport (ART) which looks like a tram, has the same capacity as a tram and runs on batteries which recharge at stops. DOESN’T HAVE RAILS OR OVERHEAD CABLES. Deployment roadworks cost only 10% of tracks and overheads – it would be cheaper by far to take out what we have and implement ART – and can be implemented in days, not years.

    1. Update to above. I’ve referred to ‘ART’ when what I’m really pushing is the trackless/wireless element. The Autonomous bit is the use of technology to ‘steer’ the vehicle as if it’s on rails. Actually I think there should always be a driver to oversee the technology. 🙂

      1. Cheers Barry. When I was in Seville recently I was indulging in transport nerdity. They have a pretty new tram system which runs on rails but has no overhead wires. The trams charged at the platforms via an overhead charging doobery. I guess that makes them cheaper as there is less infrastructure to build and less of an eyesore (if you think the cables are an eyesore)

  2. Agree strongly with updating and extending supertram. Would be disastrous to lose it in terms of more sustainable travel and reducing car reliance. Trams seem to be unique in attracting mode switch, much more so than buses. Needs all the safe integration of cycling of course

  3. The advantage of SYPTE option 1 – just keep it going as is for now (but also improve its other user friendliness as repairs are done, as CS describes above) – is that it is highly likely that a better alternative, or a significant devlopment to existing system, as discussed in previous comments above, will turn up well within the 30 year lifespan of a major rebuild and all its hassle.

  4. Buses guided on roads, so-called ART, have a major disadvantage because they cause rutting in the road surface as they always run in the same place on the road. The system in Caen, France, which was a three-section articulated bus guided by a centre rail, was closed down in December 2017 to be replaced by trams. It looks like a concept that has already been tested in practical conditions and failed. Road wear and consequent failure of braking causing accidents was one reason for abandoning it. Whatever the steering system, this problem will occur. Guided buses as in Cambridge, Leeds, Leigh, Crawley, Bristol and Dunstable to Luton need specialized concrete tracks which have less wear than tarmac, or run as driver-steered buses on special bus roads. All vehicles with rubber tyres use more energy than a counterpart with steel wheels on steel rails.

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