The Treasury is understood to be considering whether to financially support light rail systems in England that have been hit by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the government last month axed rail franchising in favour of management contracts across the board, and bus operators have received their own funding support in England, Scotland and Wales, the government has yet to announce any support for light rail systems like Manchester’s Metrolink, the Tyne & Wear Metro or the West Midlands Metro.

Authorities in the North East, Greater Manchester and West Midlands all take the revenue risk on their light rail systems. Stagecoach takes the revenue risk on South Yorkshire’s Supertram.

In Nottingham the NET light rail system is currently operating a Sunday timetable seven days a week. Blackpool Transport have suspended all tram services on the network there until further notice.

Earlier this month, politicians in the north east of England have called on the government to provide urgent cash support to the Tyne & Wear Metro system.

While that system has continued to operate to ensure NHS staff and other key workers are able to travel, passenger numbers have fallen by more than 90% and the system is losing £900,000 per week. The Tyne & Wear Metro usually carries around 36 million passengers each year.

Despite weeks of talks with England’s ‘metro mayors’ no funding arrangement has been agreed. Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s mayor, said Transport for Greater Manchester and Metrolink operator Keolis were having to “make tough choices to reduce costs” on the system.

“While Metrolink has a proud history of operating without financial subsidy, the current crisis means that is no longer a viable or sustainable option,” Burnham added. “The government has already stepped in to bail out bus and train operators, so it is only right that a similar package is offered to light rail networks.”

In the West Midlands, it is understood the West Midlands Metro light rail system is losing around £1m each month.

“We’re trying to run a temporary network that is clean and safe and has enough capacity so people can be on it socially isolated – roughly 40 people on a tram – and to make travel free where possible,” explained Laura Shoaf, managing director of Transport for West Midlands

“We want to do the right thing, but without any revenue all transport authorities are going to need assistance. Otherwise, we can’t afford to run it and I would have to mothball the tram. It is taking a lot of key workers to hospitals and it would be a huge problem.”

It is understood the DfT has prepared a case for financial support and is awaiting a response from the Treasury.

“We are aware of the challenges faced by light rail operators and continue to work closely with the sector and local authorities on the best solution for passengers,” a DfT spokesperson said told The Guardian.