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In Passing

01 June 2020

Grant Shapps’ transport announcements this weekend about upgrading the A66 and the new Covid-19 bus grant was overshadowed by the brouhaha over the lockdown travel diaries of the PM’s top aide, Dominic Cummings. So when Shapps appeared on the Sunday’s political talk shows, he struggled to get a word in about his spending spree. On Sky’s Sophy Ridge, after a series of detailed questions about Cummings’ movements, Shapps tried to steer things in a new direction, saying he’d come on to talk about transport. “Well that’s been derailed,” Ridge replied curtly, returning to the Cummings theme. A little later Shapps tried again, telling Ridge that viewers probably wanted to know about his transport plans. “Thanks for the job tips,” Ridge countered, returning again to Cummings. Twenty minutes later and Shapps was in the BBC’s studios being grilled by Andrew Marr. As the questions about Cummings flowed, Shapps once again tried to shift the discussion. “Your questions go beyond my areas of expertise, I came on your programme expecting to talk about transport.” Quick as a flash Marr retorted, “Since your expertise lies in transport, did Dominic Cummings stop at any point on his drive from London to Durham?” 

  There was much merriment in the ‘chat room’ that runs alongside the fortnightly LTT online discussion last week, when the topic of traffic cone availability came up. The subject was road space reallocation and the Government’s new requirement that councils prioritise active travel in the legacy of the lockdown. One issue explored was how to quickly make pop-up changes to road layouts. Ideas suggested included road markings, hay bales and the use of cones. But, said one of the council particicorona, pants, “cones are in short supply at the moment”. “It might be time to revive the ‘cones hotline’ then” came a swift reply. What was that, asked one of the audience watching on from New York. Which prompted a number of explanations about the initiative by former Prime Minister John Major seeking to be the motorist’s friend and give people the opportunity to report unnecessary motorway lane closures, to much ridicule. We’re not sure how serious the cones shortage is, but LTT is keen to establish the full facts, and if so, maybe run a story under the headline ‘Corona Cones Supply Crisis’.

Talks over the latest tranche of Covid-19 support funding to buses apparently involved difficult negotiations between the DfT and industry reps. This included head-to-head conversations between DfT local transport director Stephen Fidler and Confederation of Passenger Transport CEO Graham Vidler. As they negotiated a deal, it was presumably easy to quickly agree when they realised there was only one letter of difference between them…

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