Liverpool Metro Mayor warns that local transport could be financially unsustainable due to crisis

Mayor of the Liverpool city region has told the transport select committee that he believes many local transport services are likely to become unsustainable in their current form due to the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

Appearing virtually before the parliamentary committee, Steve Rotheram outlined the stark picture facing local transport in Merseyside with income from passenger fares down 90 per cent during lockdown, and local rail and bus capacity at around 20 per cent of pre-crisis levels because of social distancing measures.

In addition, the initial response to Coronavirus is likely to have cost the Liverpool City Region combined authority £17million to August plus another £10million losses likely by the end of the year.

The mayor warned that, as a result, without significant flexible, long-term funding from central government, local transport authorities would be forced to make damaging austerity cuts that risk constraining the economic recovery. 

“I want to build a truly integrated transport network in the Liverpool City Region, one that is affordable, reliable and simple,” says Rotheram. “Devolution gives us the chance to change our transport system for the better by giving local people more control over the way their transport network is run.

“I have been doing everything within my power to protect people’s safety while keeping the region moving but this crisis has exposed the problems with the way our country does public transport.”

He also argued that government bailouts which go direct to bus and rail companies were a ‘bad deal for taxpayers’, as they gave little incentive for companies operating across transport modes to integrate services. Instead he wants the money to go directly to mayors and transport authorities. He also called on the government to make the powers in the Bus Services Act easier to use, to give mayors greater flexibility in planning and delivering improved local buses.

“The status quo is unsustainable for local transport. Without significant support from central government, many authorities will be forced to make cuts which will seriously damage our economic recovery,” he adds.