City regions welcome continued emergency light rail funding

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Urban Transport Group has today welcomed continued emergency funding for light rail systems outside London, but stressed that longer term funding will be needed whilst public transport recovers from the pandemic.

The current round of emergency COVID-19 support for transport authorities operating these systems was due to expire on April 5th but will now continue for eleven weeks.

However, the Urban Transport Group stressed that funding would need to extend beyond this period given uncertainties around the course of the pandemic and that patronage is likely to remain depressed even when travel and social distancing restrictions are finally and permanently removed.

The Group’s members (outside London) operate light rail or trams systems in Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, West Midlands and Nottingham. These services have played a vital role in moving key workers and enabling people to reach vaccination centres during the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to the pandemic (in 2018/19), these systems collectively carried 119 million people.

Stephen Edwards, Executive Director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, and lead Board member on light rail for the Urban Transport Group, said:

“During the pandemic our tram and light rail systems have got essential workers where they need to be during lockdowns and helped bring our towns and cities back to life when travel restrictions have been eased. None of this would be possible without the Government’s emergency funding support. News that this funding will continue is therefore welcome ahead of the current funding cliff edge of 5 April.

“We are currently in dialogue with Government over the scale and duration of recovery funding that will be needed beyond this further tranche of emergency funding given that pre-pandemic levels of patronage are unlikely to quickly return and the need to ensure that light rail and tram systems can play their full part in a green and just recovery from COVID-19.”

ENDS

For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0781 804 1485