News just in from Sheffield on a significant road incident involving one of the much heralded tramtrain units on the inaugural day of the new Rotherham and Sheffield service adds further woes to the overall scheme. After extensive delays and enormous cost overruns the initial tram train operation introduced on heavy rail and light rail lines of the Sheffield/South Yorkshire system - has publicity of the wrong kind on the first day of their service.
Reports from the scene show a badly damaged front end of one of the new tramtrain units which came to grief at a road junction with a heavy goods lorry. Problems with traffic lights at the junction are being given as a possible cause for what is a severe accident, although fortunately the casualties on the tram were quoted as being 'light'.
Of course both Sheffield Corporation and Rotherham Corporation successfully operated a joint running tram service between the centres of both towns over many years. This included a special fleet of single ended double deck trams being delivered from English Electric specifically for this service . These unusual cars were similar in style to trolleybuses of the time with full front bodywork and rear loading platforms.
Above : Former times in Sheffield with a Roberts car traversing the heavy industrial landscape which was a typical background for trams running between Rotherham and Sheffield. The Sheffield fleet livery helped to liven up the streets - with trams being smartly turned out up to the end of the service in 1960. Photo : John Woodman
Given the increasing attention being given to potential tram train applications on the Fylde coast, notably involving the dormant Poulton to Wyre Dock railway, and options for improving service frequency and stations on the south Fylde line - anything that gives cause for concern on a demonstration or prototype service here in the UK is bound to encourage critics and discourage further branch line upgrades to light rail or tram train services - such is the case in this area.
The unfortunate incident brings to mind the inauguration of Blackpool's own light rail operation when the first service car found itself derailing on a tight curve at Fleetwood Ferry. This was entirely due to a build up of sand in the rail grooves at this point as a result of very strong winds overnight blowing sand off the foreshore on to the roadway. Although preliminary inspection should have allowed either Blackpool Transport or the local authority to have cleared out the track at this point ahead of the first service tram.
In this case a rerailing operation was carried out very swiftly to save further embarassment on the important launch day.