GREEKS ABROAD
Nottingham City Council ready to pay consultants £150,000 for advice on tram network

Consultants to the tune of just under £150,000 will be employed to offer a council advice around Nottingham’s tram network. This comes after passenger numbers on the network have struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Nottingham City Council is concerned that government financial support could end and needs to ensure the network is adequately funded in the future. Tramlink, which operates and maintains the network on behalf of the council, recorded a 23.4 per cent fall in underlying operational turnover in the 12 months to March 31, 2021.

It fell from £63.7m to £48.8m but the gap was mitigated by Government Covid emergency grants to maintain essential services totalling £18.5m. The company made a loss before tax of £21.4m as of March 2021.

Further grant support by the government has been announced up to April 2022 but it is unclear whether this level of support will continue. In 2011, the council entered into a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) with Tramlink to build NET Phase Two and operate the extended tram system in Nottingham until 2034.

Nottingham City Council will appoint consultants up to the value of £149,999 to provide advice. This spend is required to “evaluate complex commercial issues relating to the tram service” and will come out of a budget set aside for this activity. It was approved as part of a delegated decision in April – which means it took place outside of a council meeting.

A spokesman for the council said: “Public transport has been heavily impacted over the last two years during the pandemic, with usage levels considerably below previous levels. Services have however been maintained with Government support to ensure that key staff have been able to get to work and that Nottingham people have had access to essential services.

“As we come out of the pandemic it is important that the public transport sector recovers and is able to continue offering a high-quality comprehensive network. Bus and tram services have been supported with specific Government grants since the start of the pandemic and a further extension to this support was recently provided by Government to allow time for services to recover.

“We are currently working with bus and tram operators to ensure a sustainable transport network is retained in the future. During this period of identifying future network requirements, we will need to obtain specialist advice on the tram PFI contract and how this is impacted.”

The council also runs a controversial Workplace Parking Levy scheme. Businesses which have 11 or more parking spaces must pay an annual charge per space, with employers choosing to reclaim part or all of the cost from their employees. The charge was £428 per space, but this has risen to £458 from April in line with inflation.

More than 100 Nottingham businesses were no longer paying out for the council scheme before the new charges were introduced. Income generated from the levy reduced from £10.7m in 2019/20 to £8.4m in 2020/21. Money from the scheme is ringfenced for public transport including improvements to the tram network.

The council said: “The workplace parking levy income is also recovering and will continue to fund the council’s contribution to the NET system for the remaining period of the contract.”

Source: Nottinghampost.com

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