Sunday, April 21, 2024

South Yorkshire’s Supertram back under public control

Today (Fri 22 March) South Yorkshire’s Supertram is back under public control after 27 years.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor, Oliver Coppard, has hailed the historic day as ‘one small step for tram’ as new and ambitious plans have been developed to significantly improve the trams.

The Mayor plans to create a bigger and better tram network that is fully integrated with other modes of transport, and is cleaner, greener and safer, getting people to where they want to go and connecting communities.

As the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority has only just taken over the contract, customers won’t see a big change just yet, but some improvements will take effect today and in the coming days.

  • A 10% discount on some tram-only fares for the first 100 days of operation has been introduced which will apply on 1, 5, 7 and 28-day adult and child tickets purchased onboard or through the new app.
  • A new Supertram ticketing app has been launched through which customers can purchase tickets and store tickets on their smart phone. Later this year, a journey planning capability will be added to the app which will cover all modes of transport. The app can be downloaded from Google and Apple stores.
  • A new Supertram website will have all the information customers need about tickets and their journey.
  • Within the first 100 days of operation all tram shelters and stops will be deep cleaned.
  • There will be a review of the tram timetable, looking at opportunities for it to change to better serve passenger demand.

Supertram has been running at a loss over the years and lack of investment has meant a poor experience for passengers. One in three people in South Yorkshire do not have access to a car, and with a target to achieve carbon net zero before 2040 and clean up the air quality, the intent is to get more people to use public transport and make it a more positive experience.

As part of this, a public survey has been launched to get people’s views on improving the trams including on personal safety, cleanliness, condition and maintenance of seating, tram stop information, bike facilities and being able to take a dog on a tram. The survey is on the Supertram.com website and the closing date for responding is 30 April 2024.

As well as hearing from the public on what they want to see, generation changing improvements are afoot with plans to refurbish all of the trams by March 2027 and have a whole new fleet rolled out by 2032, subject to government funding. An investment case to government has been submitted this week.

There are plans to open a new tram stop later this year at Magna in Rotherham which will serve communities in Blackburn Meadows, Templeborough and Deepdale. Opportunities are also being explored for further expansion in Sheffield to Stocksbridge and Barrow Hill on a tram-train line and Chesterfield with potential for more such as connecting to hospitals.

Work is also happening to increase Park and Ride capacity at Rotherham Parkgate and over the coming weeks, there will be improved signage for the existing cycle parking facilities at Park and Rides. There are plans to explore where more bike and ride facilities can be developed.

Crucially, taking the trams back under public control means integrating it with buses, train and active travel can become a reality, creating a London-style fully integrated public transport system and a healthier region.

The Mayoral Combined Authority is currently in a statutory process for bus franchising and a recent Franchising Assessment concluded that bus franchising, where the MCA owns the depots and fleets and has control over the routes, fares and standards is the preferred option. The next step is an Independent Audit.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor, Oliver Coppard, said: “For thirty years we’ve seen and felt the consequences of our public transport network being run by private operators who have failed to run our buses and trams in the interests of our communities.

“We are now starting to dismantle that system. Today is a historic day for South Yorkshire; it’s one small step for tram, but it’s the first step in our journey back to a public transport system that puts people first, connecting our communities and helping us to build a bigger and better economy.

“South Yorkshire Supertram is ours again. But we’re inheriting a South Yorkshire Supertram that simply hasn’t had the investment it has needed for far too long. So today we start to turn that around.

“It won’t be quick or easy, but my commitment is to create a South Yorkshire Supertram network that gets the support and care it needs to deliver for South Yorkshire.

“As we start to put the ‘public’ back in public transport, we will be asking people – both passengers and people who’ve stopped using the tram – what they want from Supertram, be it more stops and more lines or allowing bikes on the tram, we’re launching a new ticketing app and making the case to government for the money to invest in new tracks and trams.

“I’m determined to give people more freedom and choice about how they travel and move across the whole of South Yorkshire. Today is a big step on that journey.”

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