Oliver Coppard seeking 'ambitious' expansion plan for Sheffield's Supertram

New Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard is seeking to develop an “ambitious” long-term plan for the potential expansion of Sheffield’s Supertram network.

Mr Coppard, who was elected earlier this month, told The Yorkshire Post he is considering ordering a review of how the system currently operates and what can be done to improve it, similar to one carried out by Sheffield MP Clive Betts in 2020 on the region’s bus system for then-mayor Dan Jarvis.

Despite being largely located in Sheffield, the costs of Supertram, which opened in the mid-1990s, were controversially split between the taxpayers of South Yorkshire. In recent years, it has also included a connection to Rotherham.

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The final costs are not due to be paid off until 2024 and the BBC reported in 2014 that people in South Yorkshire were paying 5p a week each towards Supertram.

There are hopes that the Sheffield Supertram network could be expanded.

As part of a £570m Government settlement for green transport schemes in South Yorkshire announced last year, funding will be put towards the renewal of Supertram.

Plans laid out for the renewal of the service includes improvements to the network with a fleet of close to 30 trams, track improvements, better facilities for passengers, refurbishment and extension of the depot, renewal of control, signalling and communications systems and renewed and enlarged power supply.

Mr Coppard said he now hopes to develop a longer-term plan for the network’s future.

“Personally, I am ambitious for Supertram,” he said.

“It is a mass transit network and it is moving significant numbers of people across the region quickly and efficiently.

“We have the benefit of a network already.

“There are issues with the model going forward that we are going to have to resolve and we are going to have to make some decisions relatively quickly about that.

“But then we also need a longer-term plan for the network and how we both extend that network and make that network work for people across the region.

“There was the bus review led by Clive Betts which looked at the state of the public transport system when it came to buses and what we could do there and what we could improve.

“What I think we need is an ambitious plan for developing the network and for making sure we understand what we want to try and achieve over the next 10 to 15 years when it comes to Supertram so we can put that plan to Government and hopefully get that investment so that we can make it work.”

Tentative proposals for potential future tram-train expansion have included the idea of a route beyond Parkgate in Rotherham and adding stops on existing routes at Swinton, Warmsworth in Doncaster and the town centre.

Places in Sheffield like Beighton, Stocksbridge, Heeley, Millhouses, Totley, Chapeltown, Woodhouse and Handsworth could all in future become part of the tram-train network, using existing rail routes.

Local transport bosses have been keen to expand the service to Barnsley and Doncaster.

Local transport bosses have previously said the current preferred model after 2024 is that the operation of the network be carried out by an organisation owned by the public sector with renewal works to 2028 managed by the mayoral combined authority.

Mr Coppard said: “The whole of South Yorkshire to an extent invests in the Supertram network and I think that is absolutely right because the whole of South Yorkshire benefits from a better economy as a result.

“What we need to do over time is figure out how we make sure the tram network extends and supports different communities across South Yorkshire. It is relatively limited right now.

“I’m not making any pronouncements or announcements right now about what that should say in the end but I do want us to do is be ambitious and look at that with partners across South Yorkshire.

“Nothing is impossible, none of these challenges are insurmountable. We will need to invest, we will need Government to invest, but we also need to know where we are getting to. You need to have a longer term plan - this can't be sort of constantly be hand to mouth. This needs to be a longer-term strategy and that’s what I want to try and deliver.”

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