Metro plays a 'crucial role in getting NHS staff and emergency services to work' says Government Minister
The Government says Metro services in Tyne and Wear will be able to continue to run key services for those who rely on them, after to a support package of £8.6 million was announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
But there have been already been calls that the funding is not enough as the service has been hit by near £1million a week losses.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “It is not enough. If they want the Metro and bus services to keep on running then they are going to have to give us more.”
The Department for Transport has agreed 12 weeks of funding for the metro system in Tyne and Wear - £715,000 per week - enabling key routes to remain open for people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or those who cannot work from home, including frontline NHS staff.
Operators across the country have seen a sharp decline in passenger numbers and suffered significant losses in income as people rightly follow Government guidance and stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following consultations with the industry, a bespoke package of support has been agreed for Nexus to ensure essential services can continue. This funding over a period of 3 months, will be backdated from mid-March, and will mean operators can run essential services while ensuring that current social distancing guidelines can be met.
Transport Secretary and Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Grant Shapps said: “The best way to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS is to stay at home – but protecting key transport services is vital to ensure essential travel can take place.
“In Newcastle, Sunderland and right across Tyne and Wear, for almost fifty miles, the Metro is the undercurrent that keeps people moving. It plays a crucial role in getting NHS staff and emergency services to work - and it is only right that we offer operators support during this time of national crisis.
“This package of support will help ensure light rail services continue to operate at this difficult time.”
This funding is part of a wider package of support for light rail systems in England announced by the Transport Secretary today, worth almost £30 million, which will see critical routes in the West Midlands, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield continue to run.
It comes as the Government recently announced a funding boost of up to £397 million for vital bus services with new funding of up to £167 million to be paid over 12 weeks under the new COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant.
Last month, the Government took emergency measures to support and sustain necessary rail services as operators face significant drops in their income.
The Department temporarily suspended normal franchise agreements and transferred all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period, and is offering free refunds to anyone holding an advance ticket to ensure passengers are not out of pocket.