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A Magazine for Sheffield

As Sheffield's Supertram comes back under public control, campaigners want the mayor to make one crucial change

Activists are calling on Oliver Coppard to change the rules to build a more integrated network.

City centre trams supertram
Rachel Rae Photography

This Friday, a small revolution will take place in South Yorkshire. For the first time in over a quarter of a century, a major part of the county’s transport infrastructure will come back under public control.

The change will allow the South Yorkshire Mayors’ office (SYMCA) to set routes, timetables and fares, and will see any profits put towards upgrading the network in future rather than making money for Stagecoach, who have had a contract to run the service since 1997.

The decision by SYMCA to take on the tram also means it will be brought under democratic control – decisions about Supertram services will be directly answerable to the electorate of South Yorkshire, rather than Stagecoach shareholders.

According to the mayor, Friday’s move is just the first step in a project to bring the whole of the county’s transport network under public control, creating a more cohesive services where trams, buses and active travel routes synchronise with each other.

Screenshot 2024 03 15 140209

A member of CycleSheffield's predecessor, Pedal Pushers, taking a cardboard bike on the Supertram in YEAR to protest about the cycle ban.

CycleSheffield.

But active travel campaigners say that the mayor has the opportunity to make one major improvement to the Supertram network now it is back under democratic control.

Members of CycleSheffield, as well as activists with national organisation Sustrans, are calling on SYMCA to overturn a ban on people taking bikes on the tram that has been in place since the service began in 1994.

“Better integration between tram usage and cycling has the potential to greatly increase patronage by extending the reach of the tram network,” Dexter Johnstone of CycleSheffield told Now Then.

“We therefore call upon Mayor Oliver Coppard and SYMCA to undertake a trial allowing cycles on trams, as Greater Manchester are about to do. A similar trial in South Yorkshire would send a positive message about SYMCA’s aspirations for active travel and public transport.”

Johnstone points to a number of potential benefits, including creating a more integrated, multi-modal transport network in South Yorkshire, expanding the opportunities for people to cycle in the countryside at the edge of the city, and allowing disabled people who use cycles as mobility aids to use the Supertram.

He says it would also offer a safer commuting option for people living in parts of the city that are badly served by cycle routes, and that it would “extend cyclists’ range” without having to rely on private transport, thereby reducing congestion in Sheffield and Rotherham city centres.

In Manchester, operators have just started a six-week trial of bikes on their Metrolink trams, which are smaller than Supertram vehicles. The experiment is invite-only, and has been backed by the city’s mayor Andy Burnham and their active travel commissioner Sarah Storey.

With campaigners ramping up their lobbying efforts at Sheffield’s Cycle Forum last week, Cllr Ben Miskell, the chair of the city’s Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee, told Sustrans’ Helen Kellar on Twitter that his team were “working on it”.

“Alongside drawing up plans to expand the network, I’m keen to see how we improve the service and innovate,” Cllr Miskell told Now Then. “Over the years bikes haven’t been allowed on trams and I want to find a solution that removes that barrier and allows for seamless transition between tram and active travel.”

Miskell added that a change in the rules would “give people even more choice about how they travel” and would complement the city’s new Transport Vision, which was launched last week.

We asked Mayor Coppard about his position on bikes on trams, and he told us that bringing Supertram back under public control "gives us the chance to do things differently", adding that he was "determined to grasp that opportunity."

"We’ll be working to unlock 30 years of decisions that haven’t always prioritised the public, so change isn’t going to happen quickly or easily," he continued. "But when we can we will."

"That means exploring options for bikes on trams, but it also means looking at other ways to improve services; in time we’ll be looking at everything from letting dogs on trams, to bike park-and-ride, to new and better live information. The brilliant thing is those choices are now ours to make and I can’t wait to get started."

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