Watchdog report due on South Yorkshire tram train delay

A public spending watchdog will this week publish its report into a long delayed £51m scheme to improve public transport connections in South Yorkshire.

The launch of one of the new tram trains.

The two-year pilot scheme to introduce tram trains between Sheffield and Rotherham, led by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, was first announced in 2009 but will not be completed until next summer - two-and-a-half years later than originally planned.

A complaint into the delay, lodged by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, prompted an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) and its findings are due to be published tomorrow.

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Tram trains in South Yorkshire are designed to run on both the Stagecoach Supertram system and the national rail network to offer better connectivity between Sheffield and Rotherham.

The pilot is the first time the transport system has been operated in the UK and will inform the development of other tram train routes elsewhere in the country.

Mr Betts said: “Tram trains have the potential to make a step-change in local transport, as has been demonstrated in other countries.”

Project partners in the South Yorkshire pilot include Network Rail, Northern Rail and Stagecoach, and Mr Betts has blamed the delays on Network Rail for failing to make “its essential contribution” as per an agreed timetable.

The Labour MP said: “It was the persistent failures of Network Rail and the Department for Transport that led me to ask the NAO to investigate and report on precisely what has led to this significant delay in this important transport initiative.

“I look forward to the publication of this report.”