Tyne and Wear Metro gets £20m for crucial modernisation work to keep the ageing network running
The Tyne and Wear Metro has been given a “vital” share of a £600 million cash boost for northern rail links, but critics have accused the government of a “missed opportunity” for the North East.
Local transport bosses say the £20 million given to Metro by the government will allow crucial modernisation work that keeps the ageing network running to continue into 2022.
However, ministers have been criticised for not committing to boost train capacity on the East Coast Mainline – with the bulk of Wednesday’s huge funding pledge going on electrifying the Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester.
And while the Metro’s funding will allow for essential replacement of outdated tracks and overhead lines, the network is still waiting on another bailout to help it through the Covid-19 crisis.
The government’s latest round of emergency cash support to help Metro cope with a drastic reduction in passenger numbers will only cover its running costs until August 4.
Coun Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “This is funding that will allow vital modernisation work on Metro’s ageing infrastructure to continue.
“Let me be clear, while I welcome the investment, this represents only a small portion of what is needed to continue upgrading key assets across the Metro over the next five years and Nexus has been working with civil servants for over a year in order to ensure continuity of this vital funding. I expect that additional funding for this important work will be announced later in the year.
“Meanwhile, the Metro remains in dire need of further financial support to meet its running costs due to the effects of the COVID pandemic.
“Metro is a vital local service and is part of everyday life in our region. We need to ensure the system is kept running for the people of Tyne and Wear and I do urge ministers to confirm an extension of the emergency funding which is set to run out on August 4.”
The Department for Transport said that improvements to the Transpennine line would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, bring longer and more frequent trains, and create significantly more local capacity along the line.
The government has also announced the creation of a Northern Transport Acceleration Council dedicated to “cut bureaucracy and red tape” and “ensure northern leaders have a direct line to ministers”.
However, the North East England Chamber of Commerce said the plans were “a missed opportunity to address East Coast Main Line’s lack of capacity”.
Policy adviser Marianne O Sullivan added: “The North East is facing historical under-investment in its transport links and urgently needs investment as part of the economic recovery process.
“We appreciate £589 million has been announced for upgrades of the TransPennine line, the most congested section of this route will be doubled from two to four tracks creating more reliable East-West rail connections for the North.
“However, passengers will still be facing delays on the northern section of the East Coast Main Line. There also needs to be capacity upgrades to this route to improve journeys to Yorkshire, the North West, the Midlands and London.”
Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said: “People across the North rightly expect action, progress and ambition and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure.
“We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.”