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More Covid-19 support needed for light rail

UKTram has welcomed the announcement of a £30 million support package for light rail systems in England but says more still needs to be done to help the sector in the months ahead.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the organisationrepresenting the light rail sector has been working closely with its members and the Department for Transport (DfT) on proposals for a comprehensive support package.

Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pledged that systems serving five key cities in England would receive emergency funding as part of measures aimed at keeping essential transport services running.

Now Mr Shapps has announced that the £30 million will be shared among systems in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham, and Tyne and Wear.

James Hammett, UKTram Managing Director, commented: “Although the funding announced will go some way towards keeping services running for NHS staff and essential workers, clearly, the longer the lockdown lasts the more help will be needed.

“Even when the coronavirus restrictions start to be lifted, it will be many months before customer numbers return to pre-outbreak levels, and the emergency funding only covers a 12-week period that ends in June.”

Since the onset of the crisis, UKTram has been in frequent contact with the ministers and officials at the DfT, raising the concerns of members as the public follows advice to avoid non-essential travel.

“A lot of work has already been done to secure the funding package announced at the weekend and we will continue to press for further financial support to help members recover from this unprecedented interruption to normal operations,” Mr Hammett said.

“As well as calling for additional funding, in line with the support received by other modes of transport, UKTram will also step up efforts to ensure suitable help for networks in London, Edinburgh and Blackpool, and other businesses and organisations that make up the wider light rail sector,” he added.

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