A government announcement on further funding for light rail systems in England has been welcomed by sector leaders.
The latest support package, announced on Saturday (August 8), amounts to around £3.1 million per week, for the next 12 weeks, and UKTram says the money will be vital as the sector enters a new phase of the coronavirus recovery.
Throughout the pandemic, the voice of the light rail sector has maintained a constant dialogue with the Department for Transport that’s set to continue as operators prepare for an increase in customer numbers.
James Hammett, UKTram Managing Director, explained: “In recent weeks most light rail networks have returned to full timetables, helping operators to maintain safe social distancing as people return to work following the lockdown.
“However, customer numbers and revenue remain well below pre-Covid levels and maintaining these services would be unsustainable without government support.
“This latest funding package will be particularly welcome as operators plan for September when schools, colleges and universities are expected to re-open and many more people return to their places of work.”
The latest raft of support, worth a total of £37.4 million in new government funding, will be shared between networks in Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Tyne and Wear, and the West Midlands and will be back dated to August 4, when a previous round of funding expired.
It will be reviewed again after three months and UKTram will continue to press for continued support for a sector that provides a vital service in key UK cities.
“Of immediate concern is the need for the Treasury to provide a notice period for any future financial support, similar to the one agreed with other public transport operators, to enable the sector to plan effectively,” Mr Hammett said.
“Clearly, the impact of Covid-19 will be felt for some time to come and light rail has the potential to play an important role in any ‘green’ economic recovery.
“UKTram will continue to work closely with the DfT and government ministers, pressing the case for both short-term support for the five networks covered by this new funding and other networks in the UK, as well as long-term investment in the sector,” he added.