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Tram Train as a concept started in Karlsruhe in the 1960s with the conversion of a failing commuter line to tramway operation and connecting directly into the city’s street tramway.
The success of this line encouraged the city to look at further options for integrating the locally run tramway with the main line commuter services that were not performing well, but this time interoperating with main line trains on DB tracks. This was very successful and became known as the Karlsruhe model for Tram Trains which has since spread around Germany, France, Holland and Spain.
The DfT wished to see if the Tram Train would be of benefit in GB and following a study tour organised by ACORP, a senior delegation from DfT, Network Rail and NedRail went to Kassel to see their Tram Trains. They liked what they saw and it was decided that a trial should be set up with a project team taken from Network Rail, Northern Rail and later SYPTE under the sponsorship of the DfT.
Four main objectives were set looking to learn from:
The Project Team looked at options for the trial location and types of rolling stock to fulfil the objectives within a tight budget. After several false starts the current Pilot was chosen between Sheffield City centre and a retail park north of Rotherham.
This project was always going to be complicated, integrating two different styles of operation and a vehicle that would need to be road legal as a tram and run as a train on the main line. Whilst they do it in Germany, the signalling systems, protection arrangements and some track details are very different and it would not be possible to copy the Karlsruhe example and do it in Sheffield although it was a good guide.
After many years of development, political machinations, a change of administration as well as widespread scepticism within the main line railway industry and the senior civil service, passenger service commenced on 25 October 2018. It is now well used by the local residents and is proving to be a success.
Cardiff City and Transport for Wales are planning a Tram Train service on the Cardiff Bay line and onward to the Millennium Centre and both TfGM in Manchester and TfWM in Birmingham are planning Tram Train extensions to their networks.
Retired - Former DfT Technical Lead for Tram Train Pilot
Tim is a Chartered Engineer having worked in the railway industry for over 40 years before retiring. He worked in both PWay and structures design offices before moving into project engineering on major projects such as Thameslink 2000 and the Southern Extension of the East London line as well some international work in Hong Kong, Poland and with light rail in Ireland.
The final part of his career was at the DfT where he was their railway infrastructure expert advising ministers and sitting on several cross-industry committees. Here he undertook the initial research into tram trains in Germany and became the DfT’s technical lead on the Tram Train Pilot until his retirement at the end of 2014.
Since retirement he has continued some involvement with light rail becoming a member of UK Tram’s Centre of Excellence and being the Urban Rail representative on 3 BSI Committees. Tim is also campaigning for light rail with the Light Rail Transit Association as their Technical Director providing professional engineering guidance.
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