Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (10 March) sets out his vision to build back better from coronavirus by boosting transport connectivity across and between the whole of the UK, as part of ambitions to truly level up across the country.
The Government will also consult on cutting air passenger duty on internal UK flights, and will commit £20m to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links.
The measures were announced following the interim report of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, published today. In June, Sir Peter Hendy CBE was tasked by the Prime Minister with exploring ways in which transport can better connect all parts of the United Kingdom.
Sir Peter Hendy’s report sets out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would help deliver this ambition. Such a network would significantly expand and upgrade direct transport connections in the UK across road, rail, sea and air, helping to reduce delays and bottlenecks and stimulate economic growth. Improving rail links helps cut carbon emissions, and so as well as considering how transport links can better connect the UK, the Prime Minister will consider their environmental and social impact – taking into account how they will improve the quality of life of the people that use them.
To jump-start some of the projects identified by Sir Peter, the Government has today committed £20m towards exploring the development of projects, such as:
- Improved rail connectivity between the North coast of Wales and England
- Upgrading the A75 between Gretna, Dumfries and Stranraer, a key route for south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland but almost entirely single-carriageway.
- Significantly faster rail links from England to Scotland, including looking at options to enhance the West Coast Mainline
- Rail improvements in South-East Wales building on ideas from the Welsh Government’s Burns Commission
The Government is also announcing that the consultation on aviation tax reform, announced at Budget 2020, will be published in Spring 2021.
The consultation will include options to change the APD treatment for domestic flights, such as reintroducing a return leg exemption or creation of a new lower domestic rate.
In addition to looking at the case for increasing the number of international distance bands, we will continue to decarbonise domestic aviation as part of our ambition to reach net zero, including through mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels. All domestic aviation emissions are captured in carbon budgets.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “It’s now time to build back better in a way which brings every corner of the UK closer together. We will harness the incredible power of infrastructure to level up parts of our country that have too long been left off the transport map.
“This pioneering review by Sir Peter Hendy gives us the tools we need to deliver on our ambitions for a UK-wide transport network that encompasses sea, rail, and road – and I also want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As we build back better from Covid it is more important than ever that we level-up every corner of our great country.
“Quality transport infrastructure is key to achieving that, which is why we are committed to boosting connectivity and bringing communities across the UK even closer together.”