The Department for Transport have announced a further £56 million worth of funding for tram and light rail systems in England (outside of London) to help the operators continue to operate services as restrictions start to be eased across the country. The funding will be from 20th July 2021 until April 2022 (the longest period of funding announced so far).
This £56 million will be the final tranche of COVID-19 related support given to the light rail sector and is in recognition that although restrictions are being eased it will take some time for passenger numbers to increase to anything approaching pre-pandemic levels (if they ever do).
Included in this funding is Blackpool Tramway, Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit, Stagecoach Supertram, Tyne and Wear Metro and West Midlands Metro. Of these networks the Tyne and Wear Metro has confirmed they will receive up to £13.1 million.
Baroness Vere, Transport Minister, said: “Light rail and tram services provide an essential service in our towns and cities, ensuring people can get to work, school or to see friends and family. This £56 million funding package will allow operators to keep running these vital services as normal in those initial months, as restrictions are lifted and passengers begin to return in higher numbers.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Our West Midlands Metro service has operated throughout the pandemic and has seen patronage return very quickly each time restrictions have been lifted. This has shown just how important our trams are to commuters and our regional economy. It was critical, therefore, that we received this latest funding from government, and by being the longest funding package we have received so far it has given the West Midlands much-needed certainty.”
John Fenwick, Director of Finance and Resources at Nexus, said: “The longer-term financial support for Metro is really welcome and it will help us to sustain services through to April 2022 while the recovery continues. We have recently seen customer numbers on Metro return to between 60% and 70% of pre-pandemic levels. This further, substantial tranche of funding from the Government shows that they recognise customer levels remain depressed and that it will take time to get back to normal. The funding will go towards meeting our operating costs, ensuring that Metro, a key local transport network, is sustained while it continues to face the biggest challenge in its history.”
During the pandemic funding from the DfT to light rail has now reached over £200 million with the latest emergency funding package due to run out on 19th July.