Funding to protect and increase transport services, help regenerate local economies after coronavirus and to ‘level-up’ infrastructure has been announced by the Department for Transport (DfT).
A further £283 million has been made available to increase the number of bus and light rail services ‘as quickly as possible’ so that people who need to travel, including critical workers in the NHS, can do so safely.
The funding, which amounts to £254 million for buses and £29 million for trams and light rail will help protect and increase services, allowing people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines, says the DfT, The funding will be kept under review to ensure that full services can be up and running as quickly as possible, it said.
In addition to the funding, 3,400 people including British Transport Police officers, Network Rail and train operator staff have been deployed at stations to advise passengers and make sure people can follow the guidance put in place. From 1 June 2020 at the earliest, twice that many will start to be deployed with the assistance of groups like the charity Volunteering Matters.
As well as the funding announced earlier this month, providing local authorities a share of £225 million to create ‘pop up’ and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space as well as amending the laws to reduce red-tape and half the time it takes councils to plan and deliver these schemes, £25 million has also been committed from the emergency active travel fund to support people to get their bikes repaired so they can get cycling again. An investment of £2.5 million has also been made to provide 1,180 cycle parking spaces at 30 railways stations in England.
The government is also working with local authorities and private car park owners to make it easier for people commuting by car to get closer to their place of work and finish their journey on foot or by bike without the need to take public transport. Plans will focus on developing new schemes at car parks near, but not in, city centres from where drivers could collect a bike-or use their own – and follow new cycling or walking routes which would be colour coded by distance.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “From NHS staff to transport and shop workers, teachers, volunteers, and all those staying at home, people across the country, are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe.
“To make sure people can travel safely when they need to, we are increasing capacity on buses and light rail, as well as helping local authorities fast-track plans to support cyclists and pedestrians, further reducing pressure on our transport network. These measures will help keep passengers safe now, but we must also prepare for what comes next. Strengthening vital road and railway connections, as well as encouraging cycling and walking, will be essential to our ambition to level up the country, secure a green legacy, and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of COVID-19 and look to the future.”