Supertram (Sheffield)

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20091223 375 Supertram 114.jpg
Owner South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive
Locale Sheffield
Transit type Tram[1]
Number of lines 3
Number of stations 48
Annual ridership 11.5 million (2014/15)[2]
Began operation 21 March 1994 (1994-03-21)
Operator(s) Stagecoach Sheffield
Number of vehicles 25 Siemens-Duewag Supertram
07 Vossloh British Rail Class 399
System length 29 km (18 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead line (750 V DC)
Top speed 50 miles per hour (80 km/h)

The Supertram (also known as the Sheffield Supertram and officially the Stagecoach Supertram) is a light rail tram system in the city of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. It is owned by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), who own the infrastructure, and Stagecoach who operate and maintain the vehicles.

Following a parliamentary act in 1985 authorising the scheme, the system was built by SYPTE at a cost of £240 million,[3] and opened in stages between 1994 and 1995. It was initially operated by South Yorkshire Supertram Ltd (SYSL), a wholly owned subsidiary company of SYPTE. After lower than expected passenger revenue, SYSL was sold to Stagecoach for £1.15 million at the end of 1997. With the sale of SYSL, Stagecoach gained the concession to maintain and operate the Supertram trams until 2024.[4] There were 7.8 million passenger journeys in 1996/7, growing to 15.0 million in 2011/12.[5]

Launched in an initial light grey livery, following the takeover by Stagecoach the trams wore the Stagecoach corporate livery from 1997. From 2006 the trams were refurbished, and a new dedicated Supertram blue–based livery was launched, rolled out by 2008. Ticketing is integrated with the Stagecoach Sheffield bus operations, purchased by Stagecoach in 2005.

It was announced on 28 January 2013 that a new Supertram line will be built from Meadowhall to Dore in southwest Sheffield in order to improve connections to the new Sheffield Meadowhall high-speed rail station.[6]


Supertram 125 leaving Castle Square tram stop, on the Purple Route to Meadowhall Interchange
Supertram 124 arriving at Gleadless Townend tram stop, on the Blue Route to Halfway

It runs from Sheffield city centre northwest to Middlewood and Malin Bridge, via the University of Sheffield and Hillsborough; northeast to Meadowhall Interchange, via Attercliffe; and southeast to Halfway and Herdings Park, via Norfolk Park, Manor, and Gleadless. Construction started in 1991 and the first section to open was along former heavy rail alignment to Meadowhall on 21 March 1994,[4] shortly after the similar Metrolink scheme in Manchester.

The system consists of a mix of on-street running, reserved right-of-way and former railway alignment. The Middlewood line runs mainly on the street up to the City Centre; the Meadowhall line runs totally on reserved track – from Attercliffe to Meadowhall it runs on former railway line alongside a freight line to Tinsley Yard and the main line at Rotherham Central. The inner part of the Halfway and Herdings Park lines consist of on-street running, with the exception of the viaduct at Granville Road. The Herdings line then runs on reserved track, and the Halfway line crosses the county border into Derbyshire and out again on reserved lines in the countryside. This line also serves Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre.

The three main City Centre stops are located on one side of a former dual carriageway, now a single lane and reserved for buses only. These three stops are served by all routes


The Stagecoach Supertram network is organised around Park Square and comprises three lines. The lines, with termini at Meadowhall, Halfway and Hillsborough, all serve Sheffield city centre and meet at Park Square where a triangular junction was constructed to provide interchange between lines and operational flexibility. Two small branches serving Malin Bridge, from Hillsborough Interchange, and Herdings Park branch out from two of the main lines.

A map of the Supertram network. Diagram of the Supertram network

Tram-train services

Franchise(s): Tram-train operator, not subject to franchising
Services to begin in 2017
Main Region(s): South Yorkshire
Other Region(s): North East Derbyshire
Fleet size: 25 (7 tram-trains on order)
Stations called at: 48
Stations operated: 48
Route km operated: 29
Parent company: Stagecoach Group

From 2017, Supertram are scheduled to begin operations of the new tram-train line from Cathedral to Rotherham Parkgate, using a fleet of seven brand new Vossloh Espana-built Class 399 Citylink articulated electric multiple units. The Class 399s are expected to be painted into normal Supertram livery. The existing Siemens-Duewag Supertram fleet will not be upgraded for tram-train operation, so have not been registered under TOPS and cannot be used on the line as they lack the relevant Network Rail safety systems.

The Class 399 units were constructed between 2014 and 2015 and were delivered to Supertram in December 2015. Until the completion of the tram-train line, some will be used to provide increased capacity on the existing Supertram network.

SupertramLink bus services

Three special Stagecoach Sheffield bus services connect with the tram, providing additional journey opportunities:

Through tickets are available to allow travel on Supertram and SupertramLink services.

Tram stop list

Yellow Line Blue Line Purple Line

Technical data

The fleet

The Supertram network operates a fleet of 25 three car trams built by Siemens-Duewag of Düsseldorf, Germany in 1992. The trams are capable of carrying 88 seated and 155 standing passengers and are 40% low floor design, the vehicles have been specially designed for gradients as steep as 10%. In the 1980s a design choice was taken to create the longest possible vehicle to avoiding multiple working[7] which resulted in a 34.8-metre (114 ft) design, the third-longest tram design in operation in Europe at the time[8] and the longest in service in the UK until the 42.8-metre (140 ft) long Edinburgh Trams were introduced on the Edinburgh Network.

Vossloh is to supply seven tram-train vehicles for use from 2015.[9]

 Class  Image  Top speed   Number   Built   Notes 
 mph   km/h 
Supertram Halfway tram terminus - - 3107561.jpg 50 80 25 1992
Citylink 68 110 7 2015

The track

Detail of the Supertram track at Park Square

The network is 29 km (18 mi) long, with 60 km (37 mi) of track.[10] It features two types of track; tramway track where either pedestrians or road traffic share the right of way and ballasted railway track when there are no such requirements. Tramway track consists of a grooved tramway rail set into a concrete base with troughs into which the rails are laid. Most of the track is on-street using 35G-section grooved tram rail, with BS11-80A 80 lb/yd (39.7 kg/m) flat-bottom rail elsewhere.[10] The railway track was supplied by British Steel Track Products of Workington and laid on sleepers consisting of concrete blocks with steel ties which gives a spring feeling when travelling on these sections. The track is laid on a bed of ballast which in turn rests on a prepared formation. Street crossings are usually laid with grooved tramway rails.

The overhead wiring

Supertram is powered through 12 electric substations and fed through 107 mm2 (0.166 sq in) diameter overhead line equipment (OHLE) wire.[10] The substations convert the 11 kV AC supply into 750 V DC supply into the overhead. The 12 substations are situated as follows:

  • Blackburn Meadows
  • Carbrook
  • Nunnery Square
  • Park Square
  • Arbourthorne
  • Gleadless Townend
  • Birley
  • Crystal Peaks, Ochre Dyke Lane
  • Halfway, Eckington Way
  • University, Brook Hill
  • Langsett Road, Capel Street
  • Middlewood

The overhead line equipment depends on the location. If the tracks are close together, central poles with 'steady' arms on each side are used. If the tracks are further apart, poles on either side with span wire are used. With aesthetics in mind a minimum number of traction poles are used and whenever possible the wire is anchored onto neighbouring buildings. Supertram, Sheffield City Council and landlords were in talks to try and hide anchor points as much as possible and blend them into the structures.

The contact wires are twin cadmium copper ones, twin wires being necessary because of the high installed power rating of the trams (1 megawatt). The regenerative braking on the tram feeds current back into the wires.


The driving cab of a Stagecoach Supertram, heading towards Castle Square from Ponds Forge/Fitzalan Square.

The rules of operation of the Stagecoach Supertram are similar to those of a traditional railway. The system was operated by South Yorkshire Supertram Operating Company, who employed the staff and operated the depot and signalling and now by Stagecoach Supertram. Unlike normal trains, tramways can be operated without signalling, although block signalling is sometimes necessary on single-line sections. The trams are driven on a line-of-sight basis, so that the tram can be stopped if an obstruction is spotted ahead.

Signals, however, are used to give indications to tram drivers when running on-street and at street crossings. As trams have priority at many places, it was necessary to give them different traffic light phases from motor traffic and therefore different types of indication have to be used from those applicable to motor vehicles. Signal phases for the tramway are specifically modified to account for the length of the tram. The tram signals are usually operated alongside and in conjunction with traffic signals. Signals consist of white lights arranged vertically (for go), horizontally (for stop) and a cross (for caution). Two other light arrangement indicate a point direction at junctions. The five white lights are distinct from those of the standard road traffic lights or railway line-side signals.

Tramway signals

Junction signals

Points indicators are provided at junctions to indicate the route which is set through the points. At junctions, where Supertram and train movements can conflict with road traffic, fixed signals are provided in addition to points indicators. A points indicator may only be passed if it displays the correct route indication for the tram concerned and, where fixed signals are provided, if both points indicators and fixed signals are set for the correct route.

Line-side signals give instructions or warnings to tram drivers. To distinguish them from normal road signs, they are diamond-shaped. The most common are speed restrictions which are in miles per hour. These are particularly necessary on road-running where trams travel along with road traffic.

The route a tram is to take is computer-controlled. The route is set on a device in the tram before a journey is started, and on approach to junctions, a signal is sent from the tram to a device known as a VIS loop buried beneath the track. This automatically sets the points in the correct direction.

The depot

Supertram 122, operating the Purple Route to Herdings Park, on the permanent way leaving Sheffield station for Sheffield College (Granville Road) on 5 July 2004

The depot is located at Nunnery Square and occupies the former main line carriage sidings alongside the SheffieldLincoln railway line. It was designed and constructed by Balfour Beatty on 2.6 hectares (6.4 acres) of land and consists of a three-line workshop building, 6 stabling sidings, a turning loop, engineers sidings and sundry equipment. The main offices and reception, supervisor's offices, plant room, staff mess rooms, paint shop, first aid are on the first floor level on the South side of the building. The Southwest of the building is home to the Operations and Power Controller's office, where live control of the running of the service is monitored using SCADA, CCTV and radio contact. The depot substation is also located in the southwest corner, two 600 kVA transformer-rectifiers supply the tramway overhead and an 800 kVA transformer feeds the depot facilities.

In the workshop itself are two through-running lines (numbered 8 and 9) and line 10, a stub end. All lines have inspection pits and line 8 possesses a Hegenscheidt wheel lathe. This machine allows wheel turning whilst both sets of doors are closed. The wheelsets are turned in situ. High level access is provided on lines 9 and 10 for servicing of equipment boxes and pantographs. An automated washing machine is located on line 7. The depot is currently[when?] in the process of refurbishing the entire fleet of 25 trams.

The site's security is provided by CCTV and fence guarding and is under control of security personnel housed in the operations centre. Road access is from Woodbourn Road at the end of the depot.

The site was, before the arrival of Supertram, already dedicated to the railway industry, Nunnery engine shed filled most of the site whilst lines of the Midland Railway, Great Central Railway and London and North Eastern Railway irrigated the area and served collieries.

Tram stops

Donetsk Way tram stop. The platform edge's alignment and rugged paving can be seen.

48 tram stops have been built to permit users accessing the Supertram.[11] These are generally found to be 26.5 m (87 ft) in length and 3 m (9.8 ft) in depth and are of a network-wide standard making them easy to understand and use. The design incorporates recommendations made by the Cranfield Institute of Technology who studied ergonomics for both able-bodied and disabled users.[12]

Tram stops are elevated at 37.5 cm (14.8 in) with a 1:20 slope. The platform edge comprises a 60 cm (24 in) wide and light coloured textured paving with strips of 40 cm (16 in) wide edge warning tactile strip. Directional guidance tactile paving crosses the width of the platform to coincide with the tram door locations.

Notable structures

The Supertram network possesses a few remarkable structures. Two viaducts and one underpass are of interest: the two viaducts carry Supertram onto Park Square (a major road junction in the centre of the city), one of them being a six-span viaduct, the other the bowstring steel arch Park Square Bridge. The underpass takes the tram underneath the busy A57 roundabout outside the University of Sheffield.


Until the Stagecoach takeover, ticketing was done via ticket machines provided by Abberfield Technology of Australia. These blue ticket machines dispensed adult single ride tickets, senior citizen concessionary tickets and child concessionary tickets. As well as singles, the machines sold multi-packs at a discount. Fare tables were shown on the machines with the validity of the different prices.

To travel, each ticket had to be validated in a yellow machine on the platform. The ticket defined the type of passenger and trip as tickets do now. On validation, an overprint was added, giving the tramstop code, time and date of validation and the point of validation.

As the machines did not dispense change, nearby shop-owners were often asked for change to purchase tickets from the machines. There were also problems with machine reliability. When Stagecoach took over South Yorkshire Supertram it removed the ticket machines and began selling tickets on board. This meant improved staff presence on board and tickets could be systematically checked.

Stagecoach Sheffield period tickets are valid on the trams and on Stagecoach buses, and period South Yorkshire PTE tickets covering Sheffield or the whole of South Yorkshire are valid on Supertram as well as buses and trains.

Unlike other tramway and light rail operators in the UK, Supertram accepts concessionary travel passes issued by any English local authority.[13]

Opening dates

  • 21 March 1994: Fitzalan Square to Meadowhall
    Tram 123 at Castle Square
  • 22 August 1994: Fitzalan Square to Spring Lane
  • 5 December 1994: Spring Lane to Gleadless Townend
  • 18 February 1995: Fitzalan Square to Cathedral
  • 17 February 1995: Cathedral to Shalesmoor
  • 27 March 1995: Gleadless Townend to Halfway
  • 3 April 1995: Gleadless Townend to Herdings Park
  • 23 October 1995: Shalesmoor to Middlewood/Malin Bridge


Proposals were made to extend the network to Rotherham, Dore, Fulwood and Hellaby. However, a reduced scheme with extensions to Rotherham and Broomhill[14] failed to gain government funding in 2004.[15]

A tram-train pilot project will connect Supertram to Rotherham from 2017 using an existing heavy rail line which will be electrified.[9][16] Although initially not funded, a Supertram extension from Meadowhall to Dore has now been confirmed to improve connections with the upcoming Sheffield Meadowhall high-speed rail station.[6]


The Supertram network has been accused of increasing the dangers of roads in the area, particularly in wet weather.[17]

In 1995, engineer William Roe suffered severe brain damage after his car skidded on wet tram tracks and crashed into a metal pole. Supertram were made to award Mr Roe compensation for failing to ensure that the rails were level with the adjacent road surface, and for the lack of warning signs indicating that the tracks are hazardous when wet. It was reported there were 53 accidents involving Supertram in Sheffield between 1994 and 1997, including two fatalities and 12 serious injuries.[18] A man died in 2003 from serious head injuries after he was hit by a tram whilst lying on the tracks.[19] However, there has been only one serious or RAIB reportable accident since the 2003 incident[citation needed]; this was in 2005 and was caused by a pedestrian stepping in front of an approaching tram,[20] which is the lowest of any UK tram network.[citation needed]

See also


  1. "LRTA World Systems List". Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Light Rail and Tram Statistics: England 2014/15" (PDF). Department for Transport. Retrieved 19 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Sheffield Supertram information". BBC South Yorkshire. BBC. Retrieved 11 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Courtenay, Peter. "Sheffield Supertram: History". Retrieved 19 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Light rail and tram statistics: 2011/12". Government Digital Service. 19 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Table LRT0101
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Sheffield Star-New Sheffield supertram line". Retrieved 28 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Rotherham tram-tram project funding confirmed". Railway Gazette International. 17 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "About us: Technical". Stagecoach Supertram website. Retrieved 19 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Courtenay, Peter. "Sheffield Supertram: Facts and figures". Retrieved 19 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "About us: Access". Stagecoach Supertram website. Retrieved 19 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Stagecoach Supertram Ticket Information". Stagecoach Group. Retrieved 4 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. [1] Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Bitter blow over plan for Supertram". Sheffield Star. Sheffield Newspapers Ltd. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "New 2017 hope for delayed £60m Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train scheme". The Star. Retrieved 27 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Stokes, Paul (25 October 2001). "Tram firms face big claims after crash case". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Man dies in Supertram accident". BBC News. BBC. 8 March 2003. Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links