Hopes for further Metro bailout as network faces losing £500,000 every week

Metro chiefs are hoping for a massive new bailout that will save the struggling network from £500,000-a-week losses.

Bosses have warned there may have to be 'substantial changes' for the Metro system if funding is not made available from the Government
Bosses have warned there may have to be 'substantial changes' for the Metro system if funding is not made available from the Government

But that money will run out in just a few days and there has been no confirmation so far of a further funding package to prop up the Metro beyond Tuesday, August 4.

It is understood a significant, longer-term deal is in the works, however, and awaiting sign off from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

At the height of lockdown, the Metro was losing close to £1million every week as passenger levels dropped by up to 95%.

Passenger numbers have now recovered to around a third of normal levels as travel restrictions have eased, but without government support the network would still suffer weekly losses of around £500,000.

While that shortfall could be covered for a short time by operator Nexus’ reserves, an emergency budget would ultimately have to be passed that could mean major cuts to train services.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, chairman of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “From August 4 we will be having to bail out the Metro for about half a million pounds a week. The local authorities cannot sustain that.

“Although we would not immediately have to make changes, if we don’t get the support we need there will have to be an emergency budget and there would be substantial changes."

The Department for Transport confirmed that it is reviewing the case for extra funding for the Metro and other light rail systems across the UK.

A Nexus spokesperson said: “Metro is a vital service and we are seeing more passengers starting to use the network now that lockdown is lifting.

“However, passenger numbers are only around 35% of normal so it is vital that we continue to receive further revenue support beyond August 4.

“Providing we do broker further support, in the event it is not approved before August 4, our overall financial position is such that Metro and other services Nexus provides will not be affected in the intervening period.”

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