Edinburgh Trams will be sharing an additional £4 million worth of funding with the Glasgow Subway as the latest package is announced by Transport Scotland. The previous £9 million package ran out at the end of September and this new funding is due to cover both systems until the end of 2020 – although the Subway have said they are disappointed with the amount which will still a significant deficit by the of the financial year.
It hasn’t been revealed how the £4 million will be split between the two but if its anything like the initial £9 million the majority with go the Subway with the balance then be secured by Edinburgh Trams. The announcement of this latest funding comes after detailed discussions with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT, operated of the Subway) and Edinburgh Trams.
As with light rail systems south of the border, the impact of Covid-19 has been seen with vastly lower passenger numbers which has obviously led to a decrease in fare revenue. With light rail considered to be providing a vital service for essential journeys (and to ease the pressure on other forms of public transport) this funding is aimed to help the systems continue to operate a service, although in the case of Edinburgh Trams this has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Michael Mathieson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said: “The Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Trams continue to provide key connections within our two biggest cities. The services provide essential capacity and link with bus, rail and park and ride facilities. Over the six month period from July we will now have provided up to £13 million of financial support to operators to enable services to continue. Any restrictions on these services could have placed unsustainable demands on other modes, especially bus and so this funding will assist capacity across all public transport. I would again like to thank all the people working across the light rail sector who have, and continue to, provide these important connections. These services have allowed our key workers and others who needed to travel for essential journeys to do so during very challenging circumstances. The subway and tram will help our wider society and economy recover as we go through the next phases of this pandemic. We will continue to monitor the demand, capacity and costs of support across all transport modes.”
Martin Dean, Chair of Edinburgh Trams, added: “The additional funding being offered from Transport Scotland is welcomed news, especially as we navigate the challenges of fresh restrictions in the area. The ongoing financial support allows us to continue to operate our services for anyone who relies on the city’s tramway to make essential journeys. We are grateful to Transport for Edinburgh for leading on these negotiations on behalf of our organisation.”
Of note the official press release doesn’t contain any quotes from SPT, and that is probably because they don’t feel the funding goes far enough. Dr Martin Bartos, Chair of SPT, told the local press in Scotland: “The funding package is disappointing when contrasted with the speed of the hundreds of millions of pounds of money and commitments provided to private rail and bus transport companies since March. Even if the Subway successfully receives its fraction of the headline total figure announced for Subway and Trams, SPT will still face a multimillion pound deficit by the end of the financial year. Unless there is a fresh approach taken by government and a commitment for the rest of the financial year the deficit still means cuts to our capacity to support public transport.”