Memorandum submitted by the South Yorkshire
Passenger Transport Executive (RT 22)
LIGHT RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEMS
1. South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority
(SYPTA) and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE)
welcomes the Transport Sub-committee seeking evidence on Light
Rapid Transit Systems. SYPTA is responsible for policies that
identify the travel needs of the people of South Yorkshire and
meets them by promoting the availability of the best possible
public transport within the financial resources available. SYPTE
implements those policies; this includes promoting new public
transport systems such as light rail.
2. The South Yorkshire Supertram system
in Sheffield is an example of a recently constructed light rail
system in the United Kingdom. This evidence gives some background
to the system and the experience during and after its construction.
3. The Supertram is a 29km light rail system
operating in Sheffield, South Yorkshire on three main corridors
radiating from the city centre providing quality fully accessible
public transport. At the time of construction it represented the
largest public transport infrastructure project outside London
and it was completed to time and budget costing £240 million.
4. South Yorkshire did not have a history
of intensely used suburban railways and unlike the Manchester
Metrolink had to establish a market from a zero base. This it
has been very successful in doing and it is forecast to carry
some 11million passengers in the current year. This patronage
has been secured at a time when the South Yorkshire and Sheffield
economy has not exhibited the growth seen in other cities. Despite
extensive consultation and public meetings it was inevitable that
with a scheme of such size, principally constructed in highway
rather than former railway alignment that there was some disruption
(described in more detail in the evidence).
5. However, since opening the system progressively
in the period March 1994 to October 1995 patronage has continued
to grow. The operation has been transferred successfully to the
private sector and requires no public subsidy. Nearly one quarter
of the passengers are former car users transferring to Supertram.
Land use changes along the Supertram routes are demonstrating
the regeneration benefits of light rail.
6. Supertram has demonstrated that light
rail is good for modal shift, the environment and regeneration
all high priorities on the Government's agenda. Light rail development
should therefore be encouraged. The private sector will require
some public funding towards the capital cost of such schemes and
the integration of feeder services and ticketing will improve
their viability and growth prospects.
7. Supertram is a modern urban light rail
system operating in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In total the system
has 29 route kilometres based on three lines radiating from the
city centre. A total of 25 trams are used to operate the system.
Level access is provided enabling easy use for wheelchair users
and mothers with young children. The trams also have no emissions
and air quality is improved. Compared to other UK systems it has
a high proportion of street running and shares 50 per cent of
its alignment on the highway with other road users. This is because
historically Sheffield did not have a well developed suburban
rail system so there were only limited options available to use
existing or former rail alignments. The Supertram system first
came into operation in March 1994 and phases were progressively
opened up to October 1995. Details of the project background (Appendix
1) and map of the system are appended to this evidence.
8. Powers to build the Supertram system
were sought in November 1985 and the construction commenced in
August 1991. The funding of the project was on the basis of a
design and build contract. The operations and maintenance were
separated to a wholly owned subsidiary of SYPTE with a view to
privatising the operations later once a trading record had been
established. This funding method was different to Manchester which
was on a design, build, operate and maintain basis as one contract.
9. The approved Supertram project was for
a total of £240.6 million (outturn). The project was completed
to time and budget.
Question 2"the problems they have
faced, both at the time of their construction and afterwards"
10. When Supertram was planned public consultation
took place on a wide scale with many public meetings, media coverage,
newsletters and briefings to elected members and those frontagers
most directly affected during the construction. With such a large
project it was inevitable that there would be some disruption
during construction. (Appendix 2 sets out the detail). In summary
(a) land use changes leading to lower density
residential developments on parts of the route;
(b) a negative local media due to the construction
(c) the poor financial performance after
completion due to patronage shortfalls against the original forecasts;
(d) the operating environment initially with
poor traffic priorities leading to longer than forecast journey
times and poor punctuality;
(e) during construction disruption on the
street sections which is the bulk of the Sheffield system;
(f) resolving the financial and funding problems
and the privatisation of the operation; and
(g) the low level of economic activity along
the route particularly in the city centre.
Question 3"what successes they have
had, particularly in terms of removing traffic from roads and
thus reducing congestion or restraining its growth"
Unlike the Manchester Metrolink, Supertram
has had to establish a market from a zero base. In the year 1998-99
10.3 million passengers were carried on the system a 13 per cent
increase on 1997-98. Current patronage is running at 10 per cent
above the same period last year and therefore the system should
carry in excess of 11 million passenger journeys in 1999-2000.
Service quality and reliability is high with 23 trams and occasionally
24 out of the fleet of 25 utilised. Stagecoach operate the trams
having a 27 year concession from SYPTE. (They were the successful
bidder in the privatisation process and commenced operating the
concession in December 1997).
12. The future is likely to yield further
patronage increases for the following reasons:
(a) Development tends to be cyclical but
there are now signs that land use development along the Supertram
route is accelerating. (For example, a new entertainment complex
developed by Virgin adjacent to the tram has improved off peak
patronage with the planning gain of a new stop and park and ride
facilities. In September 1999 a new site for Sheffield College
opened adjacent to the Mossway tramstop, and Dixons have recently
announced a development bringing 1,300 jobs to a site adjacent
to the tram system. Other sites along the Supertram route are
actively marketed through the Sheffield City Council development
(b) The South Yorkshire area is a Centre
of Excellence for integrated transport and seeks to take a number
of measures in advance of any new transport legislation through
quality partnerships and integration;
(c) Attitudes towards the tram are more positive
and Stagecoach in conjunction with the SYPTE and SCC wish to explore
the possibility of a small extension: (this would improve access
to Sheffield University and the Hallamshire hospital both of which
are major employers);
(d) Trams are acceptable in the city centre
pedestrian areas because of their accessibility, low emissions
(e) Local Transport Plans also open up the
possibility of better integration and measures to encourage public
transport use including the tram.
13. Reference has already been made to passenger
growth. However for light rail to be judged as successful it needs
to demonstrate that it can cause modal shift. In the case of Supertram
the most recent survey data (September 1999) shows that some 22
per cent of users previously used a car. Based on the patronage
forecast for 1999-2000 of 11 million passenger journeys Supertram
has captured over 2 million journeys previously made by car. This
equates to the equivalent of some 2,500 cars daily not being used
principally for trips into Central Sheffield.This success has
in part been due to provision of Park and Ride sites on the light
Q4. "Whether it is appropriate, and if
so what help can be given, to assist the growth of rapid transit
schemes in the United Kingdom"
14. The previous paragraph gives evidence
that the Supertram system has been successful in attracting car
users. The shortfall in patronage forecast in the original application
to the DoT is explained in Appendix 4. The modal shift from car
to light rail has exceeded the original forecast.
15. Light rail is a public transport mode
that is successful in transferring car users out of cars. In the
case of UK examples, including Sheffield, the light rail networks
are not comprehensive or extensive enough to have a major impact
on modal shift when compared to some cities in mainland Europe
although very effective along the corridors where light rail has
been installed. Also UK systems outside London operate in a deregulated
bus environment and are not as well integrated as mainland Europe
in terms of bus services feeding the light rail lines or integrated
16. Light rail are efficient movers of large
volumes of people and where large public and private investment
has been made in a system it is appropriate to maximise the use
made of the investment. Light rail besides being good for modal
shift is also good for the environment, regeneration and provides
the quality of service that is car competitive. It is appropriate
for the committee to make recommendations to assist the growth
of light rail.
17. The help that can be given to assist
the growth of schemes and build on this demonstrable success is
(a) fundingall schemes are likely
to require an element of public funding in addition to those provided
by the private sector. The timescale to fund schemes is an issue
and adds to the development time. To accelerate the development
of schemes (which also generate employment during construction)
and encourage the private sector it is suggested that a mechanism
to provide earlier certainty of funding is required.
(b) Quality partnerships and quality contractsenforceable
quality partnerships will not address integration of bus and tram.
It is suggested that authorities need to have powers to enter
into quality contracts where there is a light rail scheme enabling
full integration of bus feeder services and integrated ticketing
where voluntary partnerships do not provide the level of integration
sought by the users/potential users of the public transport system.
(c) Use of heavy rail linesalthough
not applicable in the initial Sheffield system it is clear from
experience elsewhere in the UK that conversion of existing heavy
rail lines to light rail or shared running can result in lower
capital costs, a fully segregated right of way, increased patronage
and modal shift compared to the existing heavy rail service. The
role of the SRA in light rail development needs further clarification
than that shown in the Railways Bill. For example to ensure that
the SRA and authorities have sufficient powers to ensure that
Railtrack do not frustrate potential growth.