The government will be spending £1.7bn on improving road journeys across England through repairs to local roads. The Department for Transport (DfT) has also fast tracked construction works worth £175m for repairs to the rail network while fewer passengers are using transport system.
The department has also stated its desire to lock in environmental benefits seen during lockdown by boosting England’s charging infrastructure for electric vehicles over next decade.
The £1.7bn road repair spending commitment comes on top of £2 billion in funding announced at the weekend to boost more sustainable greener travel and encourage more people to begin cycling and walking.
The Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund will be used to improve roads, repair bridges and fill in potholes across England. The funding will enable works to upgrade local networks, such as enhancing road safety at key locations, the installation of priority bus lanes, and the creation of projects to help lock in improvements in air quality experienced during lockdown.
The £1.7bn includes £500m to target almost 11 million nuisance potholes. Over £250m of the funding will also allow authorities to undertake small-scale transport improvements, such as road safety measures and public transport enhancements.
The DfT hopes allocation of the funding will reduce pressure on local authority staff by removing the need to bid for funding. The funding will be divided up based on the assets for which local highway authorities are responsible.
In addition, a new technical specification provides options for alternative materials that can be used to help overcome supply shortages in some areas so that vital street works can continue, for example, to install broadband.
The government has also published new guidance to help encourage innovation and improve the way utility street works are carried out.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “There has been a monumental effort in every corner of the country to slow the spread of the virus and protect our NHS. However, the battle is not over yet and we urge everyone to keep up the good work and only travel when they need to.
“To help those who do have to use public transport or get out on the roads to do their jobs, we’ve been accelerating infrastructure upgrades to make sure that, as we gradually reopen our society, everyone can benefit from smoother and safer journeys with better connections for our future.”
Construction has been permitted throughout lockdown, providing employers follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing. Major improvement works have taken place over the past month. Some £200m of work was undertaken on England’s motorways and major A-roads in April.
Last week also saw the opening of the £1.5bn A14 upgrade eight months early, meaning up to 85,000 drivers can now cut up to 20 minutes from their journeys each day.
The government is accelerating more than £175m worth of work during the quieter period across our road and rail network while people follow the guidance to avoid unnecessary travel.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chairman of Network Rail, has been appointed by the Transport Secretary to oversee how operators can best act in line with the government's guidance to keep passengers safe.
As part of this, rail operators have been asked to deliver regular station speaker announcements, clear signage and floor markings, while ensuring extra staff are available to manage crowding and provide guidance to passengers.
Enhanced cleaning regimes on trains and at stations have also been introduced by operators and Network Rail.
The government has also outlined a plan to expand the electric car chargepoint network by boosting the numbers of rapid chargepoints across England’s strategic road network over the next decade.
Grant Shapps said: “As more people return to their cars, it is critical this is done in a sustainable way.”
On England's motorways and major A roads, drivers are currently never more than 25 miles away from a rapid chargepoint. The government aims to ensure every motorway service area will have a minimum of six ultra-rapid chargepoints, with some larger sites having as many as 10-12, by 2023. This would mean that many drivers will be able to charge their cars in around 15 minutes – three times faster than they can currently and in the same time it takes to have a rest break, or grab food for their journey.
Electric car drivers will also be able to pay for charging their vehicles using their debit or credit card, and access information on available chargepoints and pricing information during their journey.
The DfT has been working with motorway service area operators ‘Project Rapid’ to encourage more people to switch to green transport and drive the uptake of zero emission vehicles by reducing range-anxiety concerns for drivers on long distance journeys.
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