The UK government has announced a commitment to continue funding light rail and tram networks across England, including the Manchester Metrolink, with a further £33 million.
Metrolink and other light rail systems have now received a total of £200 million in government funding to ensure their continued operation during the coronavirus pandemic after passenger numbers on public transport dropped in line with lockdown and work-from-home guidance. The funding will keep networks viable in preparation for passenger numbers to rise once more as lockdown measures are ease and workers return to their offices.
The funding comes as TfGM reveal the results of a report into the successes of the Metrolink’s £1.5 billion expansion between 2010 and 2015 which saw the network expanded to Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Airport as well as to East Didsbury, where there are now plans in the work for a further extension into Stockport town centre.
TfGM found that the new lines reduced car journeys in Greater Manchester by 38.8 million kilometres per year, saving 6,700 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted in the year 2019/20. TfGM also found that new Metrolink services also improved access to employment, further education and healthcare for the city-region’s most deprived communities.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:
Metrolink is a great example of what we can achieve when we have a locally run system that is accountable to, and delivered in the best interests of, our local communities.
“The study demonstrates the benefits Metrolink brings at both a regional and local level and is a good example of the Our Network vision in action: improving people’s quality of life, connecting communities, opening opportunity and revitalising our town centres and local economies, whilst making neighbourhoods cleaner, greener and healthier.
“We have huge ambitions for our city-region and Metrolink will be extremely important as we build back better from the pandemic and make Greater Manchester the best place to grow up, get on and get old.”
Plans for the next phase of Metrolink expansion are currently in development, with an extension of the East Didsbury line among those being considered. Andy Burnham announced in 2019 that TfGM and Stockport Council could begin preparing the business case for a service terminating in an upgraded Stockport Transport Interchange, with construction on the line possibly able to begin by 2025.