The next tramway to announce an increase in service frequency is Manchester Metrolink with trams on all routes set to run every 12 minutes instead of every 20 from Tuesday 26th May. This announcement comes at the same time as a new campaign has been launched urging people to stay safe when making essential journeys on public transport in Greater Manchester.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, made the announcement about the increase of frequency in his regular COVID-19 press conference confirming that this frequency will be in place Monday to Saturday with first and last tram times remaining the same. Metrolink will try and run double trams where possible to further aid social distancing.
The thorny subject of funding for Metrolink – and other tram and light rail systems in England – is also still under discussion between local authorities and the Department for Transport but at the time of typing no agreement has been reached. A previous package reached for light rail was said to only be the tip of the required iceberg with dire warnings without more cash Metrolink would have to be mothballed. As with all transport in the country significantly fewer passengers are being carried which results in lower fare income.
It has also been decided that concessionary pass holders will again be limited to using these are 0930 on weekdays (all day weekends and bank holidays). This decision has been made to try and maximise capacity at busy times as additional people start to make use of Metrolink to get to work and for other essential purposes.
Whilst the advice remains don’t use public transport unless you really have to TfGM are urging people to follow a few simple measures which will help with slowing the spread of the virus:
* Wear a face covering
* Keep a two metre distance where possible on the platform, stop, station and on board
* Wash or sanitise your hands regularly and carry your own hand sanitiser
* Use contactless payment methods or smart ticketing where possible and use exact change if cash is needed
Only 12% of passengers are said to be currently using face coverings on Metrolink (based on observations of 591 people getting off trams at Victoria and St Peter’s Square on Monday morning) and whilst this is a rise from an average of 10.3% last week and 6.9% the previous week there is still a lot of work to do in persuading people the benefits of face coverings when travelling on board the trams.
Stephen Rhodes, TfGM Customer Director, said: “The message around public transport is clear – people should avoid using it wherever possible and look to cycle, walk or even drive for their essential journeys if they can. But we recognise some people will have no other option, particularly as more people start returning to work. Although services will start to increase slowly, train, tram and bus services have limited capacity – particularly with social distancing – and wherever possible should be kept free for key workers and people who rely on them. Anyone using public transport should follow government guidance around face coverings, social distancing, basic hygiene routines and contactless payment. We’ve launched this campaign to help reinforce these behaviours amongst passengers and remind them that we all have a part to play to keep ourselves and each other safe.”
* Nexus have also confirmed that the previous morning peak relaxation of concessionary passes will be removed from Tuesday 26th May. From that date they will only be valid for free travel on the Tyne and Wear Metro and local buses after 0930 weekdays to aid social distancing on board services.