The Tyne and Wear Metro has secured further financial support from the Government to sustain its essential services through to March while Covid-19 restrictions continue across North East England.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has allocated £8.5m for Metro, which will last to January 18, and a similar such amount to get through to March 31, the end of the current financial year, if it is needed.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said the funding was essential at a time when it faces the biggest financial crisis in its 40-year history.
Metro’s passenger numbers, which had been as low as 5% of pre-Covid era levels during full lockdown, had recovered to 50% by late summer. But more recently the introduction of restrictions on social and economic activities in the North East has seen ridership drop back to 35% of where it would normally be.
Director of Finance and Resources at Nexus, John Fenwick, said: “This extra financial support is vital so that we can continue providing Metro services at this time of crisis.
“Passenger numbers and fare revenue remain way below where they would have been, and we expect the recovery to be slow. The need for further funding after 11 January is almost certain and we continue to work with Government to ensure we obtain sufficient support to keep Metro services operating.
“The money that we have been allocated will replace fare and commercial revenue losses and go towards meeting our operating costs, ensuring that a key local transport network is being sustained while it faces the biggest challenges in its history.”
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “We welcome this emergency funding deal for Metro which will ensure we keep this vital service running for local people until the end of the financial year.
“While this is of course good news for the region, we need longer term certainty to avoid future cuts which would have a significant impact on the North East economy. I’d like to thank our regional Members of Parliament for their help in making the case to Government for this essential funding.”
Nexus has put a range of measures in place to ensure that the Metro system is Covid-secure.
Measures include new signage and queueing systems, extra deep cleaning, and hand sanitiser points at key locations.
People must wear a face covering when travelling, unless exempt, and should continue to follow floor and wall markings in order to maintain social distancing.