What we've learned about support for transport services and at the latest Downing Street briefing

Transport secretary Grant Schapps has announced a support package to ensure supply routes bringing critical goods into the UK remain open.

By Sophie Brownson
Friday, 24th April 2020, 7:06 pm
Updated Friday, 24th April 2020, 7:06 pm

Support package will ensure supply routes bringing critical goods into the UK remain open

The Transport Secretary has announced a package of measures to safeguard the flow of essential goods into and across the country.

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Transport Secretary Grant Schapps.

He told the Downing Street press conference: "The continued operation of both passenger and freight transport is critically important to our resilience as a country.

"So today I am announcing a new package of measures to ensure transport boosts our national response to Covid-19.

"The Government has secured a trilateral agreement along with French and Irish Governments which commits our nations to keeping freight routes open throughout this crisis, bringing in life-saving medicines, food and many other essential goods."

Freight routes eligible for support

Transport secretary Grant Schapps said the Government is also taking action to secure services around the UK.

As part of this there will be a £10.5 million package of funding for links to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles to allow critical freight to support people in every part of the country.

Up to 31 routes are eligible for support, with up to £17 million available for those between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Support is also being offered to support light rail networks to help them to keep operating, allowing essential local routes to remain open and enable key workers to get to work.

Mr Schapps said support was being offered to such networks in Tyne and Wear as well as Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, West Midlands.

Mr Shapps paid tribute to the work of transport workers who have gone "above and beyond to keep vital freight and passenger services running".

He added: "The actions I have announced today will ensure that transport can continue to serve the nation during this crisis, keep us supplied with everything we need to stay at home, yet also ensure that infrastructure required to emerge from this pandemic stands ready to serve us all when that time does arise."

Launch of Transport Support Unit

A Transport Support Unit has been launched so that vehicles can help provide logistical support for the likes of the NHS.

Vehicles will be used to transport patients, medical supplies and PPE to hospitals and distribute food parcels to vulnerable people.

Highways England vehicles will also act as mobile COVID-19 testing centres.

Government test booking site 'did not crash'

Mr Shapps dismissed suggestions that the website allowing critical workers to book tests had crashed.

He said: "There were reports that the website had crashed, which it hadn't, it was simply that the slots for today were taken up.

"We've seen in the last few days this difference between the capacity available, I think the last figure I saw was 51,000, and the number of tests done, 28,000 yesterday.

"And how important it is to make sure we're using that available capacity, people being able to book online directly, that's all the critical workers, 10.72 million people with their families, are those who are able now to use that site.

"I can tell you 16,000 of those were booked during the first period of that being online and the site has actually been brought back up around now for more people to go and book sites, it will then close off again, more tests will become available tomorrow and so on."

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