Government announces £2 billion fund to upgrade Britain's roads and railways

14 May 2020, 18:56

The government announced £2bn to improve Britains rail and roads
The government announced £2bn to improve Britains rail and roads. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The government has set up a £2 billion fund to upgrade the UK's roads and railways which will "relieve pressure" on public transport.

Speaking during the daily coronavirus press briefing from Downing Street, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the lockdown had given them the chance to carry out an "update programme" on a range of maintenance projects.

He also promised to get rid of the "bureaucratic bindweed" that prevents British infrastructure projects from being completed swiftly, making them some of the most expensive and slowest in the world.

Grant Shapps has announced a £2 billion fund for roads and railways
Grant Shapps has announced a £2 billion fund for roads and railways. Picture: PA

"If building a new hospital takes just two weeks, why should building a new road still take as long as 20 years?" Mr Shapps asked.

"If GPs' surgeries can move online, why are most rail passengers still travelling on cardboard tickets?

"We must exploit our new-found capacity to respond at pace and apply it to rapidly improving our infrastructure."

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The transport secretary said people had a "civic duty" to avoid public transport if at all possible during the coronavirus crisis so the government can "carefully and cautiously restart the economy."

He added that social distancing would be almost impossible on buses, tubes and trains, with space only being available for one in 10 people.

The new fund will go towards roads and railways so that commuters can enjoy smoother and safer journeys into work.

"To make sure Britain is ready to bounce back from coronavirus, I can announce nearly £2 billion for our roads and railways, to put our transport infrastructure in the best possible shape and to get our economy growing once again," he said.

"This package includes £1.7 billion for local roads making journeys smoother and safer for drivers, hauliers, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and others.

"By filling millions of dangerous potholes we can make our roads safer and encourage more people to cycle, or even take part in the upcoming E scooter trials, helping more people play our part in relieving public pressure on public transport."

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The transport secretary said the fund would also go towards repairing damages from the winter floods, as well as repairing bridges and roads across the UK.

Over the last two months, there has been more than £700million of upgrades across the nation, Mr Shapps said.

"We somehow managed to do things in weeks that would normally take years, building new hospitals, moving public services online, making instant reforms and fast-tracking new laws."

Mr Shapps also vowed the Conservatives' pledge to "level up" the country would not be forgotten despite the expected economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

Coronavirus press conference (14 May 2020)

Referring to possible higher fares for people using Transport for London (TfL) services, Mr Shapps said: "On higher fares, it is very important I think in providing a rescue package for TfL that the London mayor can work with that we don't end up in a situation where people from outside the capital are unfairly carrying the burden."

He added: "There is the right balance to be made."

Mr Shapps said the government was working with local authorities on parking places in towns and cities, after being asked if charges and restrictions could be scrapped.

He told the press conference: "There are times now where we are literally encouraging people to drive perhaps close to, but maybe not right into perhaps, a town or city that they work in and find a place to park.

"So we are working not just with local authorities on this but also with some large entertainment venues who have car parks which aren't being used at the moment."