Ministers have announced up to £67.8m of new funding to keep tram services running in the North and Midlands – with no new cash for London.
The Department for Transport said a fall in usage since the start of the pandemic has had a significant impact on revenues, ‘meaning local authorities and operators would have struggled to maintain services without government intervention’.
A Metrolink Tram in Manchester, August 2020
Authorities and operators in Sheffield, Tyne and Wear, Nottingham, the West Midlands, Manchester and Blackpool are set to receive up to £35.4m over the next 12 weeks.
Up to a further £32.4m will then be available, ‘subject to a government review informed by local authorities’ plans to move networks onto a more financially sustainable footing, up to the end of March 2021’.
Light rail minister Baroness Vere said: ‘Trams serve as a vital link for communities in the North and Midlands – whether it’s to get to local shops, school or work, we know many people rely on these services every day.
‘That’s why we’re continuing to fund services so that they can operate safely during the pandemic. Passengers across the North and Midlands will continue to have access to the services they need.’
The Urban Transport Group, which represents the transport authorities responsible for tram and light rail systems in the Sheffield City Region, Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester, Nottingham and the West Midlands, welcomed the announcement.
Chair Stephen Edwards said: ‘We have had constructive dialogue with the Department for Transport and the Treasury on continuing the Government support that is needed to close the COVID19 funding gap caused by far lower patronage and we welcome this latest tranche of funding, which will enable us to keep services running in the difficult months that lie ahead.
‘We look forward to having a wider dialogue with government about the need for a longer-term and more integrated approach to funding urban public transport which will allow us to support the recovery of city region economies in an efficient and effective way.’
Officials said the new cash brings the total funding provided for light rail to over £160m since the start of the pandemic.