The Tyne and Wear Metro has secured £8.6m of financial support from the Government to sustain its services for key workers.
The Department for Transport has agreed 12 weeks of funding for the Metro - £715,000 per week - enabling key routes to remain open for people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or those who cannot work from home, including frontline NHS staff.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, has a £10m black hole in its budget and will continue talking to the DfT about ways of funding the shortfall.
Managing Director Transport North East, Tobyn Hughes, said: “It is good news that the government is providing emergency financial relief to the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
“The Metro and the Shields Ferry are public services and their importance to the economic and social life of our region cannot be understated. This has been highlighted during the Coronavirus crisis when we have been providing a regular service to make sure that key workers can get around. We salute our workers who continue to provide a service all day, every day, despite the challenging environment.
“This has come at a financial cost though; our fare income has all but disappeared during the lockdown period, leaving a financial blackhole of more than £10 million in our budget. The Government’s funding of £8.6 million covers around 80% of that and is very welcome, but it still leaves a funding gap that we need to close.
“We also have funding shortfalls on the Shields Ferry and in other areas. We will have to look at our other activities, saving money and redirecting funding where we can.
“We are now focusing on getting ready to support the region’s economy if and when the Government starts to lift the lockdown. Both the Metro and Shields Ferry will be there to play their full role when they are needed.
“We do not however expect to return to pre-crisis levels of ridership for many months to come, and this will continue to create a financial challenge long into the future. We look forward to working with the government to ensure that the Metro is put on a long-term financially sustainable footing.”
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: "While I welcome the funding package announced by the Government, it is quite simply not enough. Metro is losing close to £1m a week and we need all of our costs covered, not just 80%. We have incurred massive losses as a result of the lockdown and will continue to do so even when restrictions ease.
"Metro, through Nexus, is owned by the Tyne and Wear councils who are predicting massive budget deficits as a result of this pandemic and cannot afford to pick up this bill. So we will be going back to the Department for Transport to ask for more.
"If the Government wants local transport to run, then it needs to properly fund it."