Metro given £8m in Government support to keep services operating during pandemic
The Tyne and Wear Metro has secured £8m of further financial support from the Government to sustain services for the next 11 weeks, while Covid-19 restrictions are gradually eased.
The latest round of emergency Covid funding was confirmed by the Department for Transport and will help cover Metro running costs - besides replacing fare and commercial revenue lost as a result of the pandemic.
Nexus, the public body that owns and manages the Metro, said the cash boost was vital at a time when the number of people using the service remains at just 30% of pre-pandemic levels. It added that customer numbers are expected to recover significantly as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
This latest announcement means that, since March 2020, £47m of financial support has been allocated to Metro services in total.
“This extra financial support is vital so that we can continue providing Metro services while the country starts to emerge from lockdown and we look to welcome more of our customers back to the network,” Nexus’ director of finance and resources, John Fenwick, said of the funding announcement.
“Metro ridership and fare revenue remain way below where they would have been, so we are pleased that the Government has made available a further £8m of funding for the next three months.
“The money that we have been allocated will replace fare and commercial revenue losses and go towards meeting our operating costs, ensuring that a key local transport network is being sustained while it continues to face the biggest challenge in its 40 year history.”
Martin Gannon, Gateshead councillor and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, stressed the need for a longer-term post-Covid public transport strategy in the region.
He said: “I welcome this funding to keep the Tyne and Wear Metro operating, but I would like further talks with government in relation to the longer term picture.
“It is going to take months, maybe even years, for public transport to recover from the effects of the pandemic on ridership. We need the Government to commit its support throughout that recovery period.”
Nexus says it has put in place a range of measures to ensure that the Metro system is Covid-secure - including new signage and queueing systems, extra deep cleaning, UV light sanitisers on 36 escalators and hand sanitiser points at key locations.
Travelers are required to wear a face covering when using the service, unless exempt, and should continue to follow floor and wall markings in order to maintain social distancing.