Politicians warn system will need £10m payment before July

Patronage has slumped 90% on the Tyne & Wear Metro as a result of Covid-19 pandemic

Politicians in the north east of England have called on the government to provide urgent cash support to the Tyne & Wear Metro system.

The Metro is continuing to operate to allow NHS and other key workers to move around, but has seen passenger numbers fall more than 90% as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It usually carries around 36 million passengers each year.

They have warned the network faces a financial crisis which will see lifeline services cut and jobs lost if the government does not step in and offer financial support. They have reminded Westminster that every Metro journey is worth £8.50 to the local economy and local communities.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, who also acts as chair of the North East’s Joint Transport Committee, said transport executive Nexus, which operates Metro, faced a financial crisis as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

He said the Metro needed £10m before July to cover the shortfall in passengers and further support after that depending on the pace of economic recovery.

The Metro normally meets two-thirds of its operating cost from fares and other revenue such as advertising income, with the balance coming in subsidy from government.

“The Government has bailed out the rail industry and bus firms, but seems reluctant to do the same for Metro, despite it forming the backbone of our local public transport networks,” Gannon added.

We urgently need the government to confirm in writing that it will provide financial support

“Metro plays a huge role in the local economy but we urgently need the government to confirm in writing that it will provide financial support in the same way that it has been prepared to do for bus and national rail operators.

“Failure to do so could lead to long-term service reductions and job losses, at a time when North East England has never needed Metro more.”

Gannon said Nexus and local councils had already offered support to local bus operators by guaranteeing £53m in future payments.

He continued: “I welcome this quick response but in committing millions of pounds of public money into sustaining bus networks, Nexus itself now faces an enormous challenge keeping Metro going, not just for key workers today but in the long term for millions more people who will need it as our economy recovers.”