Throughout the past 12 months since the pandemic started we have regularly reported that passenger numbers are down although very little has been written on these pages about how far they have truly fallen. However, at the most recent meeting of the Nottingham City Council Greater Nottingham Light Rapid Transit Advisory Committee it was confirmed that the network has been carrying only 11% of usual passenger numbers in the early weeks of 2021. This shows how far fare revenue will be down for the network and helps to explain why the Governmental financial support has been required.
During the first couple of months of 2021 (the meeting of the Committee took place on 9th March) Nottingham Express Transit had seen several challenges in order to operate any kind of service. Although they confirmed that only 11% of pre-pandemic passenger numbers were being carried, it had been necessary on 22nd January to reduce the service to a Sunday timetable throughout the week as a larger number of NET staff had either tested positive for Covid-19 or were having to self-isolate. At the peak of these absentees, a total of 89 staff were reported as being away from work of which 53 were drivers. Despite the reduction in the service it was still a challenge to ensure that the essential service could continue to operate. Mike Mabey, NET Head of Operations, reported that the network was running at 96.4% reliability and 95.5% punctuality.
To take into consideration the latest variants of Covid-19 which are more easily transmissible extra protective measures were put in place for NET staff. This included staff wearing face masks when in the depot, anyone who could work from home being asked to do, the introduction of COVID marshalls out on the network and any NET staff being provided with hand sanitiser and face masks.
Away from the pandemic and it has been confirmed that work has been completed on “vehicle deterrent measures” at Lenton Lane bridge, Queen’s Medical Centre viaduct and Cator Lane following on from the successful implementation at Nottingham Station. At the time of the meeting these has been a success with no further vehicle incursions having been reported.
The next major trackwork to take place will be in the city centre at Lace Market with the period of this work having been brought forward to 29th April to 10th May. The major trackwork usually takes place in August but it has been decided that in order to support the reopening of the city centre from 17th May (subject to conditions being met in the roadmap) it will happen earlier in 2021.
NET undertook their own customer survey in November 2020 with 525 responses received from customers on the NET database. Headline results were:
- Respondents said their number of journeys had decreased by at least 50% during the pandemic
- 70% reported they were satisfied with the service provided
- 60% would recommend the network to a friend of family member
- Only 22% said their journeys were related to leisure
- 95% said they had seen the messaging about safe travel on the tram during the pandemic
- 50% said they were not travelling on the tram due to either working from home or lockdown restrictions on travel
- 72% of those who said they didn’t recommend the network to friends and family said this was due to concerns that other passengers weren’t wearing masks or complying with social distancing
The Greater Nottingham Light Rapid Transit Authority Committee usually meet four times a year with key updates given to the Committee from Tramlink Nottingham – operators of the network on behalf of the Council – including recent performance updates and, at the moment, changes as a result of the pandemic. Details of the Committee can be found at https://committee.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=183&Year=0