Manchester’s Metrolink tram network to get another £16m in Covid funding from government

The Metrolink tram network in Greater Manchester will get more than £16 million in further Covid-19 funding, the Government has announced.

The ’emergency funding’ will be spread over 11 weeks.

It’s worth £16,284,000 in total and is the latest Government funding to keep the network on the tracks since the pandemic first hit.

In April last year, after the country was plunged into the first national lockdown, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, raised the prospect of Metrolink being ‘mothballed’ unless urgent financial support came through.

Metrolink, he said, was losing millions of pounds as workers and the public remained at home under essential travel only rules – a situation which remains in force today.

Manchester Victoria

But since then, the Government said it has ploughed almost £200m into light rail systems nationwide.

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Latest figures, the Manchester Evening News can reveal, show there were around 188,000 trips taken on Metrolink to the week ending March 14.

That figure, however, represents an 80 per cent fall in passenger numbers from pre-Covid levels.

The Department for Transport said the extra funding takes the total support given to Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Blackpool and Birmingham light rail systems to nearly £200 million.

In a statement, the DfT said: “Operators will receive emergency funding of up to £33 million over the next 11 weeks, building on over £160 million in funding that has already been announced by the UK Government for light rail and trams during the pandemic – and taking the total support so far to nearly £200 million.

Passenger numbers are 80 per cent down

“The funding will support operators as they continue to face reduced revenues caused by low passenger numbers.

“It will ensure these vital services remain viable for the future, as the country prepares to ease lockdown restrictions and people start travelling more frequently.”

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “As the country opens up in line with the road map out of lockdown, we want light rail and tram services to be available to passengers and running as normal.

“That’s why we’re continuing to fund these vital transport systems, ensuring that they’re available now and are ready for people to use when restrictions ease.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay added: “At the start of this pandemic, we promised to do everything we could to support people and businesses. That includes making sure our country’s vital infrastructure is running for people who rely on it – such as key workers and those travelling to schools.

“Today’s funding means thousands of people across the North of England and the Midlands can continue to travel on public transport when they need to, and that trams will be ready for when the country comes out of lockdown.”

The DfT said a review on the need for further funding would be held before the end of the 11-week period.

Prior to the pandemic, more than 119 million journeys were taken by light rail or tram each year on systems outside of London, figures show.

Blackpool’s trams, meanwhile, will get £325,000.