UK: The government is making further funding of up to £67·8m available to support light rail services in England during the coronavirus pandemic.

This includes an initial £35·4m so that authorities and operators can keep services running for the next 12 weeks.

A further £32·4m would then be made available to cover the period up to the end of March 2021. However, this is subject to a government review of the light rail sector and local authorities’ plans to move networks onto a more financially sustainable footing.

Metro Report International understands this review will look at opportunities for cost savings. One industry insider said major changes are not anticipated, as while light rail projects have high construction costs, they then provide necessary services and cuts would make little financial or political sense.

The latest commitment announced on October 22 brings the total funding provided for light rail in England to more than £160m since the start of the pandemic.

The funding announcement was welcomed by the Urban Transport Group, which represents transport authorities in major cities. ‘Our light rail systems have been getting essential workers where they need to be, supporting the return to schools and more widely are providing life support for local economies by keeping people moving during the pandemic’, said UTG Chair Stephen Edwards.

‘We have had constructive dialogue with the Department for Transport and the Treasury on continuing the government support that is needed to close the Covid-19 funding gap caused by far lower patronage and we welcome this latest tranche of funding which will enable us to keep services running in the difficult months that lie ahead. We look forward to having a wider dialogue with government about the need for a longer term and more integrated approach to funding urban public transport, which will allow us to support the recovery of city region economies in an efficient and effective way.’

English light rail funding allocations
SystemInitial 12-week funding (£m)
Sheffield Supertram 2·634
Tyne & Wear Metro 8·545
Nottingham Express Transit 4·440
West Midlands Metro 1·880
Manchester Metrolink 17·521
Blackpool Tramway 0·352
Total 35·372
Note: London Trams is funded by Transport for London under different arrangements.