Local politicians in the north-east have joined other leaders of City Regions across England in writing to the Government asking for a commitment to extra support for transport – including the Tyne and Wear Metro. As things stand at the moment funding support for the Metro is only in place until 5th April and local leaders are calling for this to be extended as the uncertainty of the Covid restrictions and the gentle easing which will eventually follow means passenger numbers are unlikely to return to anything approaching normal for some time.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, has been at the forefront of the campaign for funding throughout the pandemic and has said: “I am calling on the Government to agree an ongoing package of funding that will enable all of our urban public transport networks – bus and Metro – to support the economic recovery of our towns and cities. The forthcoming Budget on March 3 is an opportunity to provide the certainty that we need. This position is supported by all local authorities in the North East, the local business community and Members of Parliament. Without the medium-term continuation of emergency funding to support high quality public transport in our towns and cities, our plans to drive forward a green economic recovery will be placed in jeopardy.”
He added: “All city-regions have submitted recovery plans for our tram and Metro systems to the Treasury via the Department for Transport, and we still await an official response. We are also developing bus recovery plans and will be discussing these with the Government in due course. However, we are facing a very immediate problem: support for Metro only in place until 5th April this year – only six weeks away. Furthermore, we understand that support for bused will end eight weeks after social distancing is declared over, and it is not clear what will replace it.”
“It is beyond doubt that continued emergency funding will be needed for all forms of public transport for a considerable time to compensate for the huge reduction in passenger numbers and fares income caused by the pandemic. We need to understand what the new patterns of demand and behaviour look like. This need will exist throughout the recovery period which could last for several years and cannot be measured in fixed blocks of weeks as has been the case until now,” he concluded.
All tram and light rail funding in England (covering all systems outside of London) is on the same timescales of funding with just six weeks of funding to cover current services until the start of April.