The Anonymous Widower

The Great Sheffield Tram-Train Mystery

An article on the BBC web site is entitled Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train pilot delayed further.

The article says that a full review is taking place and a new start date will be announced in the summer.

On my recent trip to Karlsruhe, I rode the German version of the Class 399 tram-train and wrote The Latest Citylink Tram-Trains In Karlsruhe. I said this.

Note that the trams I photographed are only some of the latest batch of twenty-five tram-trains of this type in Karlsruhe. So the basis of the Class 399 tram-train, must surely be well-proven on the streets of a city about the same size as Sheffield.

Incidentally, all of the new tram-trains that I saw, were running on tram routes, just as the first Class 399 tram-trains will in Sheffield, when they start running in a few months.

If the second paragraph is right and all the Sheffield-style trams in Karlsruhe are running as trams, could there be a problem with operating them as trains?

I have no idea and this is just pure speculation.

However this page on a German web-site has pictures of the tram-trains of Karlsruhe. There are twenty-five of the latest Sheffield-style tram-trains delivered from 2014-2016.

But according to this article in Global Rail News, Karlsruhe has just ordered twelve additional Flexity tram-trains from Bombardier.

Is this that some routes can’t be worked by the Citylink and need the other type? Or is it because of a problem with the Citylink?

I don’t know!

But somebody, somewhere must know the truth!

As an engineer, it all puzzles me.

Karlsruhe have been running tram-trains for some years now and surely, the track design rules are pretty well-established. They’ve also been running the Sheffield-style trams for at least several months.

Surely, Network Rail’s engineers must have been to Karlsruhe and just copied, what the Germans are doing.

So why haven’t they got it right first time?

  • Not Invented Here?
  • Someone in the Department for Transport giving a new twist to EU regulations?
  • Refusal to talk to the Germans?

It could of course be sheer incompetence!

Another related mystery, is why are there no reports of the lone Class 399 tram-train in Sheffield testing on the existing track as a tram?

At great expense, all track in Sheffield has been changed to accept the wheel profile of a tram-train, so surely this new tram could at least be testing in the middle of the night!

Could it be that the tram-spotters of Sheffield, are lazy and don’t like getting up in the middle of the night to photograph tram movements?  But then there were pictures of night-time tram testing in Birmingham and Nottingham, so I have to conclude testing is not happening.


May 21, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. Hi there,

    I can confirm these tram-trains have been running in Sheffield for the past month and a half in the middle of the night and they are indeed the german trains you refer to (just with stagecoach supertram design). Lately the past two weeks they’ve been running every night around 3am-4am whereas before it was maybe 1 or 2 nights a week. But I’ve gone outside and seen them running a few times and taken pictures and they seem to look very modern and the plastic covering is still on the seats.

    Comment by James | June 16, 2016 | Reply

  2. Thanks for that! It’ll be interesting to see the first pictures.

    I think that the good people of Sheffield should get a campaign going to make sure that the panoramic seats at the back are used.

    Comment by AnonW | June 16, 2016 | Reply

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