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Johnson seeks to improve transport connectivity across UK

Words: Laura Edgar
Connectivity / iStock-489832762

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a series of measures intended to boost transport connectivity across the UK, including improving rail connectivity between the north coast of Wales and England.

The measures are part of the UK Government's levelling-up plans and were announced following the publication of Sir Peter Hendy’s interim report into union connectivity.

In June, 2020, Hendy was tasked by the prime minister to explore ways in which transport can better connect all parts of the UK.

Hendy’s interim report sets out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would help to deliver this ambition.

A network like this would “significantly expand and upgrade direct transport connections in the UK across road, rail, sea and air”, which would help to reduce delays and bottlenecks as well as stimulate economic growth.

Johnson will consider the environmental and social impact of improving railways as they help to cut carbon emissions.

A UK Strategic Transport Network will now form the main focus of Hendy's continuing investigations. His final report is due in the summer, before the 2021 Spending Review.

Hendy said: “Devolution has been good for transport, but it has also led to a lack of attention to connectivity between the four nations, due to competing priorities and complex funding.

“A UK Strategic Transport Network could resolve this, with its core objective centred around levelling up across the whole of the UK.”

The government has committed £20 million towards exploring the development of projects identified in the interim report, and will work with the devolved administrations on development studies. These include:

  • 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 Main Line.
  • Rail improvements in south-east Wales, building on ideas from the Welsh Government’s Burns Commission.

Johnson said: “It’s now time to build back better in a way that 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.”

In the 2020 Budget, the government said there would be a consultation on aviation tax. This will be published in spring 2021. It will feature options to change the Air Passenger Duty (APD) treatment for domestic flights, such as reintroducing a return leg exemption or creation of a new lower domestic rate.

Hendy’s interim report can be found on the UK Government website.

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