Metrolink’s future is ‘unclear’ as government funding ends and passenger numbers plummet, transport bosses have revealed today.
During the Covid lockdowns, Metrolink received a £278m bailout from the government as a result of declining passenger numbers, which have fallen from 45.6m to 30.6m over the last twelve months.
This bailout included a recovery grant of £124m between March 2020 and April 2022, including an extra payment of £20.5m to aid the service until October this year.
However, with the service continuing to experience declining passenger numbers, energy bills soaring to unprecedented costs and the government funding coming to an end, transport bosses have admitted Metrolink’s future is ‘unclear’.
At the start of this year, Metrolink boss Danny Vaughan warned he couldn’t rule out fare hikes or service cuts, telling the Manchester Evening News that rocketing electricity prices would lead to a £6m increase in operating costs this year.
Vaughan said with other bills and passenger decline factored in, this would result in losses of up to £40m.
Roger Jones, the former chairman of the Bus Services Committee, said there may be an argument for reducing some schedules if cash can’t be found, but said a better direction would be to cut fares to boost subsidy.
He said: “Metrolink has never been properly subsidised which is why fares are higher than we’d like. If the Government won’t make up the deficit we have to find some money through council tax or somewhere.”
Referencing Andy Burnham’s plan to bring the region’s buses back into public control, Jones added: “If one of the purposes of reducing fares on buses is to get more passengers then maybe we’ve got to do the same thing with trams.
“I think all of us accept that if trams could receive the same subsidy as trains and buses fares would be much lower. But we shouldn’t start cutting Metrolink, it’s taken us so long to expand the network, the last thing we want to see is a reduction.”
Meanwhile, the government has said that operators need to ‘develop effective and financially sustainable networks in light of changing travel patterns post-pandemic’.
Transport Commissioner Vernon Everitt said they remain in ‘continuous dialogue’ with the government about funding for the Metrolink, and that they were grateful for cash already received.
He said: “The current funding package runs until October and it remains unclear what will happen after that. What is clear, however, is that we will need further support while we take action ourselves to attract more people to the network and return it to a sound financial footing.
“We have already seen encouraging signs in passenger numbers, especially for leisure trips, and we must continue to offer frequent and reliable transport services as a sustainable alternative to car use in our growing region.
“We are taking decisive action to attract more ridership through the creation of the Bee Network. Single bus fares are being capped at just £2 for adults, and we will also be launching a major new campaign to promote the benefits of public transport.
“We will work with employers to help promote this too. In a little over a year, we will see the first franchised bus routes in operation and we will begin to integrate our value for money fares offer across Metrolink and buses to make everything simpler to use.
“We’ll integrate the local rail network into this in due course too.”
Police restart search for Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett as skull found
The search for murder victim Keith Bennet has resumed as ‘potential human remains’ were found on moorland, police have confirmed.
The remains were found during an independent search on Saddleworth Moor by author Russell Edwards, who reported his discovery to Greater Manchester Police.
Detectives are said to be analysing a small sample of the remains and some clothing, the MailOnline reports.
Twelve year old Bennett was one of the five children tortured and killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s. His body has never been recovered.
GMP said in a statement: “We have always said that GMP would act on any significant information which may lead to the recovery of Keith and reunite him with his family.
“Officers met with Mr. Edwards yesterday evening (September 29th), and he was able to locate a site of interest and provide us with further details of the work he has been carrying out.
“We are at the very early stages of assessing the evidence which he brought to our attention, but have taken the decision to excavate an area of land with a view to determining what lies there.
“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been uncovered, but out of respect for Alan Bennett, who we regularly maintain contact with, we have informed him of this potential development.
“Alan does not wish to be disturbed at this time and we would ask that his request for privacy is respected.”
Bennett was lured into a van by Hindley on June 16th, 1964. He was then taken to Saddleworth Moor, where he was sexually abused and murdered by Brady.
Despite his heartbroken mother’s pleas, neither Brady nor Hindley ever revealed where they had buried his body.
Winnie Johnson continued visiting Saddleworth Moor to search for her son until her death in 2012.
Cause of Queen Elizabeth’s death revealed
Queen Elizabeth’s exact cause of death has been revealed as an extract of her death certificate is released to the public.
The Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Lowe, confirmed that Her Majesty The Queen’s death was registered in Aberdeenshire on September 16th, and that the cause of her death was old age.
The document, released by National Records of Scotland, notes the Queen died at 3.10pm on Thursday September 8th.
The Queen’s only daughter Princess Anne is named as the ‘informant’ on the document, and would have notified the local registrar of her mother’s death.
Anne, who accompanied her mother’s coffin as it travelled from Balmoral to London via Edinburgh, was with the head of state in her last moments.
She said: “I was fortunate to share the last twenty-four hours of my dearest mother’s life.”
Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest on September 19th following a historic seventy-year reign on the throne.
Her Majesty spent four days lying-in-state at Westminster Hall ahead of the state funeral, where around 250,000 Royal well-wishers came to pay their respects and say a final goodbye.
Royal Mail to strike for 19 days with Black Friday and Christmas deliveries affected
Strike action will take place across October and November
Black Friday and Christmas deliveries face delays as Royal Mail workers prepare to strike across the next two months.
The Communication Workers Union announced that action in October and November will be a mixture of ‘single days and rolling action’ across Royal Mail Group’s network.
This includes walkouts from 4am on October 13th for twenty-four hours, and then again on October 20th and 25th, as well as November 28th.
The union said the strike action will have a ‘dramatic impact’ on deliveries, and will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas build-up.
It could also impact Amazon’s second Prime Day, with sale dates for subscribers on October 11th and 12th.
The CWU says the strike action comes following an ‘outrageous’ decision made by the Royal Mail Group’s senior management to withdraw from major national agreements, push ahead with cuts to workers’ terms and conditions and ‘completely sideline’ the union.
General secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.
“The chief executive of Royal Mail Group is treating postal workers as if they are stupid. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.
“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.”
Ward went on to urge everyone to ‘stand with their local postal worker’, adding: “If Royal Mail Group are allowed to get away with this then it sends a green light to every rogue big business in the UK.
“We will not stand by and see the Royal Mail Group become the next P&O but we need your backing to win.”
However, the Royal Mail says changes are needed as it is currently losing £1million a day. A spokesperson said: “On September 22nd, Royal Mail invited CWU to enter into talks through Acas to find a resolution to our dispute on change and pay.
“This evening, rather than responding to our offer of Acas talks, the CWU announced further damaging industrial action, once again taking the path of prolonging disruption over resolution.
“Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices… Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.
“The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and engage urgently on the changes required.
“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause. We are doing all we can to minimise any delays and keep people, businesses and the country connected.”