Transport Secretary announces further measures to improve transport connectivity across the UK

Work on road improvements and rail upgrades will boost business and improve connectivity across the UK, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced today (7 December 2023) in his response to Lord Hendy’s Union connectivity review.

Projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will explore options to improve transport links that strengthen connections across communities and the UK, helping to drive tourism and grow the economy.

The measures lay the foundations for stronger UK connectivity and economic growth by increasing access to skilled labour and opportunities. They will be supported by significant long-term work through other government investment including Network North, which has already made a £1 billion commitment to electrify the North Wales Main Line and fund upgrades to the A75 in Scotland.

The government’s response includes actions to enable protection of vital domestic air routes, alongside a series of studies to explore options to improve rail travel in Northern Ireland and Wales and road travel in Scotland, and enhancements to overall connectivity between Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “We are committed to delivering growth opportunities across the United Kingdom.

“We are announcing support for projects that will boost connectivity and enhance transport connections across the UK. These projects will identify schemes that can bring economic benefits to people across the UK.

“I’d like to thank the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive for working collaboratively with us on these projects and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them on improving UK transport connectivity.”

Initiatives across the UK announced include:

  • providing £8 million to the Scottish Government to kickstart the development of options to improve the A75, in addition to the funding committed in Network North to deliver targeted improvements following the Scottish Government’s identification of a preferred option through the business case process
  • providing £3.3 million of funding support to Translink to deliver a study on the cost, feasibility and value for money of electrification of the railway in Northern Ireland from Belfast to border
  • improving domestic aviation route support policy by updating Public Service Obligation (PSO) policy to include routes that operate to and from different regions of the UK, rather than just into London, as is currently the case. This means qualifying routes throughout the UK that are in danger of being lost will be protected by the UK government’s PSO policy – to ensure minimum levels of air services on routes that are socially and economically vital for the region

These complement existing recent investments from Network North to:

  • provide an unprecedented £1 billion investment to fund the electrification of the North Wales Main Line, bringing parts of North Wales within an hour of Manchester and providing more punctual and reliable journeys on the 105-mile route between Crewe and Holyhead, alongside connections to Liverpool, Warrington and Wrexham
  • delivering the Midlands Rail Hub in full, by investing £1.75 billion to improve journey times, increase capacity and boost frequency of services, including between Cardiff and Birmingham

A better-connected UK brings communities closer to opportunities that support levelling-up and unlock economic growth. Our response to the Union connectivity review marks an important step in increasing UK connectivity and delivering the strong, reliable transport connections people depend on every day.

Lord Hendy has welcomed the government’s response and said: “I welcome the government’s response to my review and the announcements in it. My recommendations outlined the next steps that the government should take to identify investments that will improve connectivity and support economic growth, job creation, house building, social cohesion and sustainability. The government’s response shows that they are taking the necessary actions to move this work forward and demonstrates their commitment to improving UK connectivity.

“I am also pleased to see that partnerships between the UK government, and each of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive have underpinned this work, and I look forward to seeing them continue in the future.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Improving connectivity across Northern Ireland and the UK is a priority of the UK government, and I am pleased that these feasibility studies will support that aim in Northern Ireland for the benefit of businesses and people living and working here.”

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, said: “The UK government is spreading opportunity and prosperity to all corners of our country and I’m pleased to see plans for delivering improved transport connectivity taking huge strides forward.

“Hauliers, commuters, leisure travellers and communities will be delighted to see UK government funding to kickstart work by Transport Scotland to identify improvements on the A75, the main artery linking Northern Ireland to the north of England through south-west Scotland.

“The UK government is also committing funding to explore ways to boost rail connectivity between Scotland and England. And we’re investing in upgrades to the A1 and protecting vital air routes throughout the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government on this ambitious package of proposals to link up the UK much more effectively – boosting our economy, creating jobs and levelling up opportunities around the country.”

Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, said: “The UK government has invested millions directly in Wales’s transport infrastructure, speeding up journeys for travellers. Following the Hendy review, we are committed to making further significant improvements, leading to better-connected communities and greater opportunity for people across the country.

“The planned £1 billion electrification of the North Wales Main Line, £50 million for Cardiff Crossrail, £141 million for the Valley Lines and £11 million for the A4119 road upgrade are just some of the improvements the UK government is delivering in infrastructure in every part of Wales.”

Declan Pang, Road Haulage Association (RHA) Director of Public Affairs and Policy – England, said:

“The RHA welcomes today’s announcement of an £8 million investment from the UK government to Transport Scotland to kickstart the development of options for upgrades to the A75.

“The upgrade of this important route is vital in creating a quality link from Northern Ireland to southwestern Scotland and onwards to the rest of Great Britain. The economic benefits of this investment are substantial and the upgrade of this road will enable greater economic opportunities across all 4 nations of the UK.”

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Domestic air travel enables all parts of the UK to connect with each other in ways other modes cannot replicate, as well as facilitating onward international travel and connections through the country’s larger airports.

“Developing connectivity within the Union is, therefore, an essential component in rebalancing the economy and investing in the regions, increasing prosperity for people and businesses across the UK.”


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