£2.5m emergency funding for Sheffield Supertram

The Government will today announce an emergency cash injection to keep Yorkshire’s only light rail system moving, in the face of falling passenger numbers during the pandemic.

Trams continue to run for key workers in Sheffield city centre as the UK continues in lockdown

Stagecoach, which operates Sheffield’s Supertram, will receive just under £2.5m over the next 11 weeks, to make up for its decimated revenue stream over the past year.

The sum is part of a £33m package to be unveiled by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, which will also support the light rail systems in Manchester, Newcastle and Blackpool. It brings the total support package for trams and light rail to nearly £200m.

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The Department for Transport said the cash would “ensure these vital services remain viable for the future, as the country prepares to ease lockdown restrictions and as people start travelling more frequently”.

A further funding review will take place before the 11 weeks are up, Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed.

Mr Shapps, who earlier this week announced that a northern hub of transport jobs would be created in Leeds, with hundreds of civil service roles moved out of the capital, said the trams had been “lifelines for getting critical workers to their jobs and the public to their vaccinations”.

He also made a tacit acknowledgement that decisions affecting transport in the North had not always been taken by officials familiar with the services.

“When decision-makers truly know what it’s like to commute and travel around Northern towns and cities, we can be confident that decisions are absolutely rooted in what’s best for people living there,” he says in a blog post to be published today.

It comes a few days after Boris Johnson published a new nationwide bus strategy which aims to bring simpler fares and flexible services. Some £3bn will be spent on providing more frequent and reliable services, with daily price caps, more evening and weekend services, and integrated, contactless ticket buying.

The Mayor of Sheffield City Region warned that the city’s tram system could not continue its “hand-to-mouth” existence.

Labour’s Dan Jarvis said that although the funding was welcome, “Ministers need to recognise that people’s travel arrangements will change after Covid restrictions are eased and without sustained, long-term funding settlements, services will be put at risk”.

Stephen Edwards, executive director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which owns the tram network, added: “It is clear this support will be required beyond June 21, given that pre-pandemic levels of patronage are unlikely to quickly return.”

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