Metrolink could be closed unless government prohibits it “in a few days”, warns Andy Burnham

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Metrolink could be closed unless the government provides additional funding in “days rather than weeks,” warned Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

Passenger numbers have dropped since the coronavirus shutdown, with monthly revenue dropping from £ 6 million to “well below £ 1 million”.

Regional leaders plan to “put the network on hold” until it receives a government bailout similar to what has been offered to rail and bus operators.

Burnham admitted the move would make it harder for the NHS and social service workers, who were able to travel free on the Metrolink earlier this month.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), which manages the network, could also be forced to “reduce” services depending on the level of public funding.

Burnham said the post-pandemic economic recovery would require functional public transportation systems.

But he suggested that social distancing on buses, trains and trams could last the rest of the year.

Speaking at a joint media briefing with Liverpool area mayor Steve Rotheram, Burnham said: “We are losing millions of pounds every month trying to run a public transport service under these circumstances.

“If the government fails to bail out the bus and rail sectors, we will face the difficult decision of whether or not to put Metrolink on hold.”

“It is not something we want to do because we want to support these crucial workers, these minimum wage heroes, because they still have to get to work for us.

“In the absence of that [government] support, we are forced into a corner. ”

Between March 2 and April 20, the number of people using the Metrolink dropped by 95 pc, the frequency of the tram falling to one every 20 minutes.

With the lockdown expected to last at least three more weeks, Burnham urged the government to step in and help “get our cities back to life as soon as possible” once the measures are lifted.

He said, “We are still weeks away and we have no answer. Metrolink would normally bring in around £ 6 million a month, which is now well below £ 1 million.

“We cannot continue to face losses like this without any way of understanding how we are going to make this income.

“Public transport should probably operate with social distance for a period of time, perhaps months rather than weeks – the rest of this year.

“We are going to need help to run public transport at levels we would like to resume.

“I’m talking about a [government] treat in days rather than weeks. ”

When asked how closing Metrolink would affect front-line workers who use it to and from work, Mr. Burnham said, “They would find it difficult, and we don’t want it to happen.” happen. “

The Department of Transport has been contacted for comments.

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