Metro bosses fear cuts over £21.2 Covid black hole without government help
“Devastating cuts” to Metro timetables could be on the cards if bosses cannot plug a multi-million pound hole in their budgets.
Nexus, which runs the Tyne and Wear public transport network, has predicted it will find itself short by more than £21 million by 2023, largely due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
And while passengers are unlikely to see significant changes to services in the near future, concerns are growing that services could be slashed if the government doesn’t step in.
“Covid-19 has decimated the economics of public transport and we urgently need the Government’s help to get through it,” said Martin Gannon, chairman of the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) and leader of Gateshead Council.
“Without that help there will be devastating cuts to public transport services – the complete opposite of what we want to achieve.
“Local authorities are already facing major pressures on over-stretched budgets, but sadly we have no choice but to propose an increase in the transport levy, in order to avoid the cuts to public transport being even bigger.”
North East leaders on the panel, which is responsible for public transport in the region, have repeatedly warned about the challenges they face from falling passenger numbers, which have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
And this has been compounded by last year’s work from home advice, leaving Nexus facing a £21.2 million black hole in its finances for 2022/23.
In response, JTC chiefs are expected to approve a package of measures this month, including:
A £7.5 million to its fund for concessionary bus travel, which covers bus companies for the cost of free passes Efficiency and “stretched income targets” at Nexus worth £4 million A £5.6 million raid on Nexus’s cash reserves
Cllr Gannon added: “Our public transport network is still dealing with the impact of Covid-19 – both the knock-on effect of reduced passengers and revenue but also the impact the current Omicron outbreak is having on day-to-day operations.
“We are far from being out of the woods, and we will continue to make the case for the Government to help us in these uncertain times.
“The Government needs to provide longer term support, reducing over time, so public transport is there to support a greener economic recovery.”