Sector leaders have called for fresh investment in light rail to help boost economic recovery as the country emerges from the most recent Covid-19 restrictions.
Through recent lockdowns, networks in England and Scotland have proved invaluable for many people who needed to travel – including key workers and those attending medical appointments – and will have an important role to play post-pandemic.
A recent meeting of UKTram’s Owners and Authorities working group heard that emergency funding from the UK and Scottish governments had enabling operators to maintain essential services, but more would be needed to ensure a successful recovery for the sector and to unlock its future potential.
James Hammett, UKTram Managing Director, explained: “Over the past year we’ve worked in partnership with both national and devolved governments, providing valuable intelligence on the impact of Covid measures on customer numbers and revenue.
“In turn, this has helped the sector secure more than £200 million in emergency funding, but now we need to start taking a longer-term view.
“The value of light rail to the cities served by existing networks has been clearly demonstrated during a period of national crisis, and members of the Owners and Authorities working group agreed that now is the time to press home the case for future investment as the UK looks towards a ‘green’ recovery.”
Members of the group, made up of senior representatives from network owners and authorities operating light rail systems, have also agreed to commission a detailed document outlining the ability of light rail to attract inward investment, improve transport links, reduce congestion and improve the environment. It will also highlight the contribution light rail can make to the government’s aims for regional ‘levelling up’.
“As well as helping us to highlight the benefits of existing systems, this document will provide a valuable resource for promoters of future schemes,” Mr Hammett added.
Held virtually, the meeting included discussion on the measures operators were taking to welcome back customers following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, as well as providing a platform to share best practice on recovery plans.