North East will suffer unless Government continues to provide emergency funding, say transport chiefs

The North East will suffer from a slower economic recovery, a failing public transport network, increased congestion, deteriorating air quality, and worsening inequality if emergency funding is not provided by the Government, according to regional transport chiefs.

An urgent request for continued emergency revenue funding to support the North East’s public transport network and sustain services has today been sent to the Transport Secretary ahead of the expiry date of 4 August for existing support packages.

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “Council Leaders and Elected Mayors in North East England are seeking confirmation of continued support for our public transport network.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created an enormous strain on our public transport finances. As each step is taken in the unwinding of the lockdown, the complexity for public transport grows.”

With transport playing a key part in supporting the North East’s economic recovery, local and combined authorities want to encourage the use of sustainable transport wherever possible to preserve the environment, improve air quality and support public health.

However, with social distancing measures and public confidence issues meaning it will be a long time before a return to normal passenger numbers, this presents a financial challenge to bus and Metro services. The viability of services long term are absolutely vital to the region’s long term economic recovery and climate change objectives.

Cllr Gannon continued: “While we note the financial support the government has given to the Tyne and Wear Metro and the bus network, we are now moving close to the expiry date of the existing funding packages, with the 4 August being just weeks away.

“With all this in mind, we would like the government to commit to providing further emergency support to bus and Metro services for as long as the effects of Covid-19 prevent us from earning the normal level of commercial income as well as increasing costs. We are also seeking assurances over the long-term future of Nexus’ revenue and capital grant funding.

“Without further support for our transport network, the North East will undoubtedly suffer from a slower economic recovery, a failing public transport network, increased congestion, deteriorating air quality, and worsening inequality.”

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