Further emergency coronavirus funding worth around GBP300m (EUR352m) has been agreed by the UK Government for Transport for London (TfL) and light rail systems in England.
The majority is to go to the transport authority in the capital, with two additional payments to total GBP260m (EUR305m), not including a top-up grant dependent on actual passenger revenues.
Although TfL’s finances have been substantially depleted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the projected deficit in 2020-21 has fallen by about GBP420m (EUR494m) due to higher passenger income and lower operating costs. Fare income in the year to 6 February was GBP1.373bn (EUR1.613bn) compared with GBP4.127bn (EUR4.85bn) in the same period of 2019-20, but operating costs were GBP4.719bn (EUR5.54bn), down from GBP4.84bn (EUR4.92bn) over the corresponding period in 2019-20.
The latest package takes TfL to 18 May, by which time London mayoral and assembly elections will have been held; a new deal is expected after this. Overall support for the authority will have reached more than GBP3bn (EUR3.52bn) since March 2020.
Elsewhere in England, GBP33m (EUR38.8m) has been agreed to cover an 11-week period from 5 April – this takes the total to around GBP200m (EUR235m) over the last 14 months. The funding is to be allocated as follows:
• Manchester Metrolink – GBP16.3m (EUR19.1m)
• Tyne and Wear Metro – GBP8m (EUR9.4m)
• Nottingham Express Transit – GBP4.1m (EUR4.8m)
• Stagecoach Supertram – GBP2.47m (EUR2.9m)
• West Midlands Metro – GBP1.75m (EUR2.05m)
• Blackpool Tramway – GBP325 000 (EUR382 000)
UKTram has pledged to continue working in partnership with the UK and Scottish Governments to secure additional support as coronavirus restrictions are lifted. The industry body has maintained a dialogue with the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland throughout the pandemic.
In an indication of how severely English tramway and light rail operators have been hit by the COVID crisis, passenger numbers on the Tyne and Wear Metro fell to about 5% of normal during the first lockdown in 2020, with losses approaching GBP1m (EUR1.71m) each week. Ridership has since recovered to around 30% of normal figures.