Speech: Transport Secretary's statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 23 May 2020

Department For Transport

May 23
17:01 2020

Transport Secretarys statement on coronavirus (COVID-19) 23 May 2020

Opening remarks

Good afternoon, and welcome to todays Downing Street press conference.

Im pleased to be joined today by Dr Jenny Harries

Latest data

Let me start by updating you on the latest information from the governments COBR data file.

As of today (23 May 2020):

3,348,507 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 116,580 tests yesterday.

257,154 people have tested positive, thats an increase of 2,959 cases since yesterday.

9,331 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus in the UK, down 11% since last week.

And tragically 36,675 people have now died. Thats an increase of 282 fatalities since yesterday and thats across all settings.

Not just a list of statistics, but a devastating reminder of the cruelty of coronavirus.

Our thoughts are with the friends and families of the victims.

Transport context

As we start to relax the restrictions, we must plan our route to recovery.

Allowing people to resume their lives where possible

Getting businesses up and running again

And building beyond coronavirus.

In the short term, we will need to bring back more public transport to keep families safe.

That process has already begun.

Rail and tube services increased at the beginning of this week - and theyll ramp up more next month.

And to ensure that more buses, trams and light-rail networks return to service today I can announce new investment of 283 million to start moving back to a full timetable.

However, I do want to stress this funding does not mean we can go back to using public transport whenever we like.


Those who can should still work from home

Those who can should still avoid all public transport.

Even a fully restored service will only be capable of carrying at best one fifth of normal capacity, once social distancing is taken into account.

So only if you need to travel, and you cant cycle, or walk or drive, should you take a bus, tram or train.

But please; avoid the rush hour.


Were managing the transport network to make it as safe as possible.

This week saw the deployment of nearly 3,500 British Transport Police, Network Rail and Transport for London employees.

These marshals worked with the public to prevent services from becoming overcrowded.

From 1 June at the earliest as we move to Phase 2 of the unlock we will start to deploy twice as many marshals with the assistance of groups like the charity Volunteering Matters.

These Journey Makers will help provide reassurance, advice and friendly assistance to commuters.

The last time we did this, at the 2012 Olympics, it was a great success.

While these are altogether more serious times if we show the same public-spirited concern for one another, it will go a long way towards helping transport and passengers cope.


As I have said, its essential we stagger journeys and avoid the rush-hour.

Thats why, at a recent roundtable, we asked the tech sector to come up with innovative proposals to help passengers avoid congestion.

One good example is Passenger Connect from Birmingham start-up ZipAbout.

A personalised information service which tells rail users how disruption and crowding may affect their journey, while providing alternatives and helping people to maintain social distancing.

The service has been successfully piloted over the past 12 months and it will be rolled out soon.

Building for the future

Were not just dealing with the immense challenges of the present.

Were building for the future too.

Transport is not just about how we get from place to place.

It also shapes the places; for good or bad

Towns. Cities. Whole nations.

We now have an opportunity to use the power of transport to improve long-standing national weaknesses, and create something better.

Rebalancing the economy

The UKs unbalanced economy is one such weakness.

Our mission is to level-up Britain.

The COVID-19 outbreak must be the catalyst to get it done.

Levelling up. And speeding up.

So, while roads and railways are less busy, were accelerating vital projects.

Take the North, for example.

This bank holiday weekend, were carrying out vital work to fix Leeds station.

Continuing to build a new platform

Installing new points and switches

And improving the track to Wakefield.

Just part of 490 separate engineering projects happening around the country this bank holiday weekend.

Work that would normally take months of weekend closures are much quicker on these quieter railways.

Beeching cuts

And were getting on with plans to reverse some of the so-called Beeching rail cuts too.

Dr Beeching wrote a report back in the 1960s which led to the closure of one-third of our railway network.

2,363 stations, 5,000 miles of track identified for closure.

Many of the places removed from the map never recovered.

That report was perhaps the origin of the left-behind town.

But were working to reverse Beeching.

The process has already started in Blyth in the North East and Fleetwood in the North West.

I visited in January, and also took the opportunity to visit Horden Peter Lee to see the building work.

There used to be a train station 200 yards away, but it was closed, and the town cut off by the Beeching axe.

This new station will connect a community of over 50,000 people, improving their quality of life.

And today, the next 10 schemes to benefit are announced.

Its development funding

But if they stack up, then were going to build them fast.

Amongst the many schemes is the reinstatement of the Ivanhoe line in the East Midlands, from Leicester to Burton, via Coalville and Ashby.

And branch lines on the Isle of Wight, and a new station at Wellington in Somerset.


But no matter how great we make the railway of the future, millions will still rely on the car.

Thats why today Im publishing the preferred route to complete the dual carriageway on the A66 from Scotch Corner to Penrith.

The first new all dual-carriageway across the Pennines in 50 years.

This is a 1 billion programme that will transform capacity by upgrading junctions and widening the road.

These road and rail schemes will be the first of many

Binding our country together, and connecting people with jobs.

Towns and cities

But it isnt just the balance between regions that we need to reshape.

Its hard to see millions who - until a few weeks ago - commuted by train into Manchester, London, Birmingham every day - immediately going back to the same old ways.

So we have to reshape our towns and cities too

The Prime Minister once said:

Cities are where inspiration and innovation happens because people can bump into each other, spark off one another, compete, collaborate, invent and innovate. Thats when we get the explosion, or flash of creativity and innovation.

And yet with social distancing it makes all that rather more difficult

So we have to find new ways of making it happen.

Therefore - as conditions allow and not until July we will be looking to support creative ways for businesses to reopen, whilst maintaining social distancing.

We know restaurants and bars will want to start trading again, and we will work with them so we can enjoy an outdoor summer in a safe and responsible environment.

Car parking

For those who live too far to cycle and walk, and must drive to major conurbations, we will repurpose parking in places just outside town centres

so people can park on the outskirts and finish their journeys on foot or bike or even e-scooter.

Our aim with many of these measures is not merely to get through the lifting of restrictions, and then return to how things were

But to come out of this recovery stronger, by permanently changing the way we use transport.


Take the bike for example, previously we announced the introduction of a scheme to help bring bicycles back to a roadworthy condition

relieving the pressure on public transport, and improving the nations health.

Today I can provide the detail of the new 50 bicycle maintenance voucher.

Available from next month, the scheme will help up to half-a-million people drag bikes out of retirement.

Speeding up the cycling revolution

Helping individuals become fitter

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