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Impact of pandemic reflected in latest tram statistics

New figures have revealed the full impact of Covid-19 restrictions on tram patronage and revenues, highlighting the importance of government support that has helped to keep vital services running.

Official statistics published by the Department for Transport show that, in England, the number of customer journeys fell by nearly 70 per cent in the year to March 2021, with average patronage down to just seven per cent during the first lockdown in April last year.

By September, following the easing of some restrictions, passenger numbers returned to around 49% of pre-pandemic levels but fell again in November and December as the second wave of the pandemic struck.

The statistics have been compiled with the help of UKTram, which has provided both UK and Scottish governments with up-to-date intelligence on the impact of restrictions on the sector, and the measures operators have taken to keep customers safe.

The organisation representing the UK’s light rail sector has also played a significant role in helping to secure more than £230 million in emergency funding from the UK and Scottish Governments.

Commenting on the figures, UKTram Managing Director James Hammett said: “Prior to the pandemic, tramways and other light rail systems in the UK enjoyed year-on-year growth, with exceptionally high levels of customer satisfaction.

“These latest statistics show that networks surveyed remain very popular with customers, but, due to Covid, overall passenger journeys across the UK have fallen by 69 per cent to 81.7 million.

“As a result, revenue has decreased by nearly 65 per cent and operators have relied on emergency funding to maintain safe services for those who still needed to travel.

The Light Rail and Tram Statistics report is published annually by the DfT and provides a breakdown of figures from individual networks as well as a nationwide analysis.

Mr Hammett added: “Clearly it will be a long time before the sector returns to the growth it enjoyed pre-pandemic, and we will continue working with government, and pressing the case for ongoing support, to ensure light rail fulfils its potential to help drive wider ‘green’ economic recovery.”

The full statistics and accompanying report can be downloaded here.

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