Transport partnership highlights financial support for rail systems in England


Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has warned it faces significant financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic unless it receives financial assistance from Transport Scotland.

During the pandemic, SPT has continued to operate Subway services and maintain strategically necessary bus services while commercial services were withdrawn.

This was despite receiving no support, or help, to replace passenger related income lost from the Subway or from its bus stations. Continuing to run these services enabled many key essential workers to continue to travel to and from work at this challenging time.

To date, only the Subway and Edinburgh Trams, as Scotland’s only light rail operators, are the only modes of public transport not to have received some kind of financial support from Transport Scotland. SPT has highlighted that support has already been given to light rail operators in England by the UK Government.

SPT chair Dr Martin Bartos said the transport partnership had worked with NHS, councils and transport operators to help get the public where they needed to be given the resources available.

“Not a day has gone by when the Subway hasn’t operated and we’ve followed government’s lead on doing so safely for staff and passengers,” he said. “Responding to Covid-19 has had a profound impact on all parts of SPT, and undoubtedly will continue to do so for some time to come.”

He said most of SPT’s revenue comes from Subway income which is directly related to passenger numbers. The situation was highlighted to Transport Scotland as early as March 30 by which time the system had already experienced a 97% fall in passenger journeys. Now, depending on how much longer lockdown and distancing restrictions need to remain in place, SPT has identified a potential deficit of between £12.5m and £20m for the current financial year.

Bartos continued: “Meantime we’ve watched two rounds of government financial support announcements for private bus companies; we’ve seen government stepping in to take on heavy rail losses and we’ve even seen UK government supporting London Underground and light rail across England. Unfortunately we’ve seen not a penny in COVID-19 support come to SPT to help either our bus or Subway efforts.

“We’ve been left without the slightest indication from Transport Scotland or the Cabinet Secretary about when SPT might see any actual financial support which recognises the huge losses incurred as our staff have done their bit.”

In a report to the partnership, it states that within the first 12 weeks of lockdown, SPT highlighted a potential deficit of between £5.6m and £9m to Transport Scotland. In addition to falling income generated by the Subway, SPT has also seen a reduction in income from bus station departure charges, advertising income and ancillary fees.

The request to Transport Scotland is to assist SPT financially, and to recognise that all our services have continued at a time when the call from central government has been for passengers to limit their use of public transport. By continuing to run services on the Subway, SPT played its part in the national infrastructure to ensure those who needed to travel were able to do so. SPT has been seeking the financial support, similar to that already given to rail, ferry and bus operators.

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