Although specific details of the support are yet to be announced, ministers and officials have ‘recognised that a sector-wide solution is not straightforward’

 
Networks in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham, and Tyne and Wear are set to receive emergency funding as part of coronavirus support measures

 
A government commitment to support tram systems in England during the coronavirus outbreak has been welcomed by the organisation representing the UK’s light rail sector and transport watchdog Transport Focus.

The Department for Transport announced yesterday that light rail networks in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham, and Tyne and Wear are set to receive emergency funding as part of coronavirus support measures aimed at keeping essential transport services running.

During a later press conference, transport secretary Grant Shapps declined to say how much money networks could expect as talks were ongoing, but pledged a “multi-million pound” package of support.

James Hammett, UKTram managing director, commented: “Since the start of the outbreak we’ve kept the DfT informed of its impact on our members and the challenges they face in maintaining a vital service for many key workers and others who rely on them for essential travel.

Government recognition of the critical role they play in several key cities is to be welcomed alongside the pledge of financial assistance moving forward

“Government recognition of the critical role they play in several key cities is to be welcomed alongside the pledge of financial assistance moving forward.”

Although specific details of the support are yet to be announced, Hammett says ministers and officials have also recognised that a sector-wide solution is not straightforward.

“Due to differing contractual obligations, each system will require an individual package of support,” he explained. “We will continue to work with members and the DfT to ensure networks receive help that meets their specific requirements.”

A number of light rail systems are not covered by today’s announcement, including those in London and Edinburgh, and UKTram will continue to press for support for them from the relevant devolved administrations.

As customers follow the advice to avoid all non-essential travel, we’ve seen customer numbers and revenue plummet across a sector

“As customers follow the advice to avoid all non-essential travel, we’ve seen customer numbers and revenue plummet across a sector, and it will need ongoing support to ensure vital services are maintained,” Hammett added.

Commenting on the government’s support for light rail, Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Key workers and people who rely on tram and metros to travel for medical care and essential shopping will welcome the news that the government is set to provide the necessary support for these services to continue.”

 
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