Long-term future of Metrolink remains uncertain

Metrolink's long-term future remains uncertain despite the government agreeing to a £11.6m bailout, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has warned.

Andy Burnham said tram services could still be ‘mothballed’ once the emergency funding runs out in June.

The cash injection provided by the government only covers 73pc of what Metrolink has lost since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, he said.

Greater Manchester leaders have been told by combined authority chief executive Eamonn Boylan that cash reserves could be used to make up for the shortfall – but not for long.

Mr Burnham and other mayors across the country have written to the government calling for a new funding deal to support light-rail systems.

Speaking at his weekly COVID-19 press conference, he said: “If we are going to be running public transport with much lower levels of occupancy, we’re going to need a proper funding deal that will carry us through this period and and the rest of the year

“If we don’t get that deal, I’m afraid that mothballing will have to come back on the table.”

“We can potentially find that level of money from reserves but we couldn’t find that on an ongoing basis.”

Mr Burnham added: “The chief executive told us that he couldn’t sign off the losses going forward if the government was to continue with its current approach.

“We welcome the funding provided but we do have to ask the question – where are we meant to find the rest from?”

The bailout agreed by the government is designed to keep Meotrlink running for 12 weeks to enable key workers including NHS staff to work.

It forms part of a wider £30 million package to keep light-rail services running across England during the pandemic.

Announcing the extra funding last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Manchester Metrolink continues to provide the Greater Manchester area with an essential transport lifeline even through this time of national crisis.

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 light rail services continue to operate at this difficult time.”

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