Government confirm more support for trams and light rail

In a normal world, weekend announcements from the Department for Transport for new projects and funding are pretty rare but as we are in a very different environment at the moment the “new normal” means announcements come at you from all angles and that has been proven again with Saturday 23rd May seeing confirmation of further funding for tram and light rail in England (as well as buses).

In the daily government Coronavirus briefing, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, made the announcement that the funding was there to protect and increase local transport levels and comes after pressure from the combined force of local authorities with Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham having been particularly vocal in his demand for more cash stating that without it Manchester Metrolink may have had to be mothballed.

As always, when announcements of this type are originally made there is actually very little detail available with just the headline figure that £29 million is being allocated to trams and light rail (plus an additional £254 for local buses). No mention is made of which tram and light rail systems will benefit and whether Blackpool is no included on the list as previous awards had only included Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, the Tyne and Wear Metro and the West Midlands (the only systems running at the time).

In the press release announcing the funding the DfT said: “The funding – amounting to £254 million for buses and £29 million for trams and light rail – will help protect and increase services, allowing people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. The funding will be kept under review to ensure that full services can be up and running as quickly as possible.”

Reacting to the announcement Andy Burnham was cautiously optimistic although still wanting more: “Today’s announcement by the Transport Secretary gives us most of what we need to keep running Metrolink for the next two months and I would like to thank him for listening to the concerns I have raised. Of course, concerns remain about what will happen from August. I believe the recovery process in cities like ours would be strengthened by having the ability to plan for the longer-term. Last week, Ministers announced a funding package for London that runs until October and I would encourage them to consider extending the timetable for Greater Manchester’s deal in the same way. We fully support the Government’s ambitions on creating more space for cycling and walking and welcome the additional funding that has been announced. The political consensus around prioritising active travel is becoming stronger by the day and this is emerging as one area where the country is set to build back better.”

We are sure there will be more detail on who gets what funding in the coming days and probably the ask for more funding in the future too but for now tram and light rail in England is that little bit more secure and should see a further upping of service frequencies to allow social distancing to be continued for those who need to travel.

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