The continued modernisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro has recently got a boost with an extra £20 million of government funding confirmed by Nexus for the project which got underway back in April 2010. This is additional to the £350 million Metro All Change budget which was due to end in March 2021.
Whilst welcoming the news of this funding, transport leaders in the northeast have also called upon the Department for Transport to provide further funding not just for the modernisation of the network but also to help cover the losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant severe dip in passenger numbers.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “This is funding that will allow vital modernisation work on Metro’s ageing infrastructure to continue. Let me be clear, while I welcome the investment, this represents only a small portion of what is needed to continue upgrading key assets across the Metro over the next five years and Nexus has been working with civil servants for over a year in order to ensure continuity of this vital funding. I expect that additional funding for this important work will be announced later in the year. Meanwhile, the Metro remains in dire need of a further financial support to meet its running costs due to the effects of the COVID pandemic. Metro is a vital local service and is part of everyday life in our region. We need to ensure the system is kept running for the people of Tyne and Wear and I do urge ministers to confirm an extension of the emergency funding which is set to run out on 4 August.”
John Fenwick, Director of Finance and Resources, said: “This is good news for Metro renewals. The £20m for next year represents a down payment on what will hopefully amount to further investment, which is essential for the continuation of our capital programme through to 2025. Receiving early notification of this funding ahead of the Spending Review later in the year ensures that we can properly plan for key modernisation projects that will be delivered next year. This funding will also secure the jobs of all those who are wholly or mainly engaged in delivering these essential infrastructure renewals across Metro.”
The next crunch point for the Metro will be in early August with the previously announced funding provided by the government only due to run until 4th August. With passenger numbers remaining significantly lower than before the pandemic started to feel its force it is likely to be some time before revenue is able to cover costs and so Nexus are also calling on a further government commitment to supporting the network. The end of this funding will also affect other tram systems in England.