Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has become the latest official across the UK to criticise promised government support saying the funding being offered to help Manchester Metrolink doesn’t go far enough and without more decisions will have to be made to mothball the network completely.
It has been confirmed that Manchester Metrolink has been awarded £11.6 million funding from the Department for Transport but Mr Burnham claims that with the lower frequency of services and the massive reduction in passenger numbers this still leaves a “blackhole” of £4.3 million over the next 12 weeks.
Andy Burnham said: “I have tried to be constructive with the government throughout the recent weeks of the covid crisis, but I’m struggling to find words of support about this decision. At the start, we were told to spend what we needed to provide essential services, but now we find out we only have three-quarters of the income Metrolink needs to run at its current reduced services for key workers and essential journeys. This is wrong and disappointing. I don’t know where I’m expected to find the shortfall of circa £4.3m over a 12 week period from. This comes at the same time as nine out of 10 of our councils in Greater Manchester have had cuts to their funding grants. On the other hand, the government has bailed out private bus operators and heavy rail. I was encouraged by the Prime Minister’s call, that we’ll approach the recovery together and then we ended the day with this decision. Once this funding ends in early June, we will simply not be able to continue running Metrolink. The public should be under no illusions that mothballing the largest light rail network in the country remains a very real possibility.”
In total the government have promised £30 million to light rail and tram networks in Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands. It is intended to cover the networks for 12 weeks but does not equate the full loss of revenue which each network may experience during that period. Other awards include £2.1 million for the West Midlands Metro and £1.3 million for Supertram in Sheffield.