News that Parkgate will be linked to Sheffield via a tram-train link has met with a mixed reaction.
Three vehicles an hour will make return journeys from Meadowhall and Sheffield, through to Rotherham Central Station and Parkgate.
The trail-blazing £58m scheme will be for two years, after which it may be copied in other cities such as Manchester.
There is a tentative welcome for the project, set to start in 2015, by traders at Parkgate and Rotherham. Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce claim it is a ‘great opportunity’ to bring people in.
And it could prove an additional bonus for Parkgate commuters who travel to Sheffield each day to work.
The manager of Parkgate retail centre, Denis Copeland, said: “We have been aware of this coming for a few years but it was a case of clinching the funds.
“We are considered the best place for the trial and hope it will bring new people who wish to leave the car at home.
“We do, of course, hope it will be two-way traffic with benefits for everyone. We will be the only retail park in the country with a tram service.
He continued: “It will need some hard work with Rotherham town centre to make sure we do not become a ‘park and ride’ for Sheffield or Meadowhall, and we are looking at various options to maximise the opportunities.
“If the project is successful it could extend to Doncaster at a later date. It’s hard to assess fully as there is nothing similar to compare it to.”
There are attractions to draw people this way, added Mr Copeland: “The arrival of Kiddicare at Parkgate in October for one example - it will be one of only 10 such stores in the country.
“And Rotherham has unique independent traders. It’s up to us to eke out the benefits.”
Rotherham MP Denis MacShane is keen to see the tram-train service in operation and extended to Doncaster.
He said: “For years I have been urging the Department of Transport and transport authority locally to link the centre of Rotherham with Retail World at Parkgate and on to Meadowhall by using existing rail track to create a stopping tram like the S-Bhan system in German cities.
“The managers of Retail World should now highlight the town centre – the fresh market produce, the butchers where meat is fresh and the smaller craft shops.”
The MP said low-cost parking must be provided at Rotherham Central station to encourage shoppers to use the tram-train: .
He added: “It will defeat the purpose if car parking charges are so high they discourage people from taking the train.”
Travel between Sheffield and Parkgate on the new vehicles will be just 25 minutes.