By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Tram operators in Nottingham will receive £3.7 million from the Government to keep key services running.
The Department for Transport has agreed 12 weeks of funding for the tram system – £309,000 per week - enabling the routes to remain open for people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or those who cannot work from home, including frontline NHS staff.
Operators in Nottingham – and across the country - have seen a sharp decline in passenger numbers and suffered significant losses in income as people follow Government guidance and stay at home.
The funding over a period of three months will be backdated from mid-March, and is designed to ensure the trams can run essential services while ensuring that current social distancing guidelines can be met.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The best way to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS is to stay at home – but protecting key transport services is vital to ensure essential travel can take place.
“The Nottingham Tram has served as the spine of this city for 16 years. It plays a crucial role in getting NHS staff and emergency services to work - and it is only right that we offer operators support during this time of national crisis.
“This package of support will help ensure tram services continue to operate at this difficult time.”
Baroness Vere, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said in a statement: “For most of us, the past few weeks have proven to be hugely challenging as we all play our part in stopping the spread of Covid-19. But while the streets and roads are quieter – as most of us rightly stay home to stop the spread of this virus – there are still people across Nottingham who need to travel to frontline jobs or to access essential supplies.
“Many of those workers rely on public transport services, as do the elderly and people with disabilities, who may use the bus, train or tram to get to the shops to pick up food and medicines.
“The Nottingham Express Transit (NET), more commonly known as the Nottingham Tram, has served as the spine of this city for 16 years. From Chilwell and Clifton to Hucknall the iconic green carriages link more than 20 million passengers to where they need to be every year and will continue to do so long into the future.
“But with passenger numbers plummeting as most people – rightly – follow the advice to stay at home, light rail systems like the NET have understandably been under financial pressure across the country. That’s why we’re announcing today that we have made up to £30 million available to keep England’s trams running, with £3.7 million going to Tramlink Nottingham.
“This funding, for a period of 12 weeks backdated to mid-March, will mean operators can run essential journeys while ensuring that current social distancing guidelines can be met.
“This follows almost £397 million recently announced to support England’s bus industry. That includes up to £14 million a week over 12 weeks to ensure that essential services across the whole of England can continue to operate.
“These are challenging times, and it is essential that we support our transport industry while they work to support each of us. Nottingham’s tram network will continue connecting the heart of the city to the suburbs, and is part of our nation-wide effort to carry this country through to the day when we can finally get back to normal.
“Our commitment to supporting the Nottingham tram is clear, having already invested £371 million to more than double the size of the network.
“Finally, I want to make clear my unwavering gratitude to the transport heroes who are working tirelessly on the frontline to support other critical workers and ensure our city keeps moving. From the bus, train and tram drivers, to signallers, engineers, ticket officers and station staff – we thank you”.
Broxtowe MP Darren Henry said: “I welcome this package of support from the Government for the local tram network. Importantly, many key workers travel on the tram from Broxtowe to work in places such as the Queen’s Medical Centre. So this is keeping public transport available for those providing our community with the greatest service of all.”
The funding is part of a wider package of support for light rail systems in England announced by the Transport Secretary today (Saturday, May 2) worth almost £30 million, which will see critical routes in the West Midlands, Tyne and Wear, Manchester and Sheffield continue to run.
It comes as the Government recently announced a funding boost of up to £397 million for vital bus services with new funding of up to £167 million to be paid over 12 weeks under the new COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant.
Last month, the Government took emergency measures to support rail services as operators face significant drops in their income.
The Department for Transport temporarily suspended normal franchise agreements on the rail network and transferred all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period.
It is also offering free refunds to anyone holding an advance ticket to ensure passengers are not out of pocket.