Multi-billion pound road and railway investment launched

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JOURNEYS on local roads, railways and motorways are promised to become smoother and safer after a multi-billion-pound infrastructure package was announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of upgrades have already been made to the nation’s road and rail networks during the lockdown period with more planned over the coming weeks and months.

Drivers and cyclists beginning to return to England’s streets will benefit from a £1.7bn Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund to improve roads, repair bridges and fill in millions of potholes.

The package will target around 11 million nuisance potholes, enough to tarmac a road stretching a third of the way around the Earth.

It will also see smaller improvements completed 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.

Mr Shapps commented on the announcement: “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.”

On top of this fund, the government is also accelerating more than £175 million worth of work during the quieter period across our road and rail network while people follow the guidance to avoid unnecessary travel.

It comes after the Transport Secretary last week announced £2 billion in funding to boost more sustainable greener travel and encourage more people to begin cycling and walking.

Major improvement works have already taken place over the past month.

England’s motorways and major A-roads benefited from £200 million of work carried out in April while some £550 million of improvements and maintenance were also completed on the rail network.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chairman of Network Rail, has also been asked 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.

As more people return to their cars, it is critical this is done in a sustainable way.

The government has therefore outlined its vision to supercharge the electric car chargepoint network by boosting the numbers of rapid chargepoints across England’s strategic road network over the next decade.

On England’s motorways and major A roads, drivers are currently never more than 25 miles away from a rapid chargepoint.

The government’s vision 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 means 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.

It will also allow people to charge their electric vehicles ‘quickly and easily’ using their debit or credit card and access information on available chargepoints and pricing information during their journey.

In response to the government announcement, Randolph Brazier, Head of Innovation & Development at Energy Networks Association, commented: “We welcome the government’s vision for a rapid chargepoint network in England.

“The electricity network companies have a great track record in supporting the roll-out of electric vehicles so far.

“To deliver the government’s vision we will need to implement the recommendations of the EV Taskforce alongside a regulatory framework which supports innovation, flexibility and strategic investment.

“We, alongside our members, are working with motorway service areas to come up with whole system solutions that works for customers.”