In late May the UK Government announced that it wanted to see public transport provision increase – alongside its message that such modes should only be used in the absence of alternatives.
An additional GBP283m (EUR315.6m) has been confirmed for bus and light rail operators, of which GBP29m (EUR32.3m) was allocated to light rail systems in Greater Manchester (GBP13.3m/EUR14.8m), Nottingham (GBP3.5m/EUR3.9m), South Yorkshire (GBP2.6m/EUR2.9m) and West Midlands (GBP1.6m/EUR1.8m), plus the Tyne & Wear Metro (GBP7.6m/EUR8.5m). Separate funding agreements had already been announced for London (see above).
Pressure to provide funding had come from the ‘M9’ group of metro mayors and industry bodies. However, the sums committed will only provide security for around two months under current social distancing measures that limit capacity and therefore farebox revenue.
The funding has been welcomed by trade body UKTram. Managing Director James Hammett described the money as “a shot in the arm for tramways and light rail systems in England planning a return to pre-coronavirus service levels”, but cautioned that “with the advice to avoid public transport still in place and reduced capacity, it doesn’t look like there’ll be a swift return to ‘normal’ operations.”
The Urban Transport Group has separately written to Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. In a letter on 15 May, the group that represents English city region transport authorities suggested a need to move to integrated funding support, arguing that “we need to move away from the fragmented approach to funding public transport experienced during the lockdown phase. An approach which has been both modally compartmentalised and on a ‘too little too late’ basis (with the exception of national rail services, which had all its costs covered on the day lockdown was announced).”
Potential emergency funding for the Edinburgh Tramway and Glasgow Subway comes under Transport Scotland (TS) rather than the Department for Transport. Discussions are understood to be underway between TS and both city of Edinburgh Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (Glasgow) on the issue.