In 1991, Sheffield played host to the World Student Games. As part of the big event, the local council embarked on a large-scale project to improve much of the city’s infrastructure. Naturally, this involved lots of sporting venues, including a stadium, an indoor arena and an Olympic pool. These are all still in use almost twenty years. However, possibly the most lasting piece of the games construction is the transport system that was built to link venues and now ferries commuters and shoppers around the city. The centre-piece of this is the super-tram system.
The tram is an above ground transport system that runs at the side of or along the surface of major roads in the city. When it was built in 1991, it had just one route and linked the Meadowhall Shopping Center with the Middlewood area of the city. In so doing, it passed through the center of the city, the sporting venues for the games and the city’s university. Since then, it has expanded to three different lines that traverse the city.
It is extremely convenient as it touches all the major points of the city. It reaches Meadowhall, which at one point was Europe’s largest shopping center. It also passes the Don Valley Stadium and Sheffield Arena, which host major sporting and entertainment events. The Rotherham United football team plays at the stadium and the Sheffield Steelers at the arena. It also passes Hillsbrough and Bramall Lane, homes of Sheffield Wednesday and United, the city’s two major football teams. And, finally, it runs through the heart of the city’s shopping district.
The tram is a great way to get around Sheffield. It is clean, it runs regularly – every five minutes during the middle of the day – and is rarely late. There are also two park and ride schemes that allow visitors to leave their cars and on the outskirts of the city and travel in on the tram. These are useful schemes as finding parking in the center of Sheffield is not the easiest of challenges. Getting a spot close to the shops or major office areas is difficult and can be very expensive – it can cost over 10GBP for the afternoon.
There are, though, a few drawbacks to the tram. In some ways, it is a victim of its own success. At rush hour and on Saturday afternoons, it can be extremely crowded – it is not uncommon to see trams fail to stop as they are full to bursting and would exceed health and safety restrictions if they added more commuters. Additionally, as the tram was built to avoid several major intersections in the city, it takes a somewhat roundabout route to get where it is going. This means it can be quite slow. It takes over 30 minutes to get from Meadowhall to the center of Sheffield. The train takes covers the same routes takes less than 5 minutes.