Statement by the Secretary of Transport on the coronavirus (COVID-19): May 23, 2020


Statement from the Secretary of Transport on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) May 23, 2020

Hello and welcome to today’s press conference at Downing Street.

I am pleased to be joined today by Dr. Jenny Harries

Latest data

Let me start by updating you with the latest government information COBR data file.

To date (May 23, 2020):

3,348,507 tests for the coronavirus were carried out in the United Kingdom, including 116,580 tests yesterday.

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

9,331 people are currently hospitalized for a coronavirus United Kingdom, down 11% from last week.

And tragically, 36,675 people died. This represents an increase of 282 deaths since yesterday and this in all parameters.

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 begin to relax the restrictions, we need to plan our way to recovery….

Allow people to resume their lives where possible …

Putting businesses back into activity …

And build beyond the coronavirus.

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

This process has already started.

Rail and metro services increased earlier this week – and will increase further next month.

And to guarantee the return to service of more buses, trams and tram networks today, I can announce a further investment of £ 283 million to start coming back to a full schedule.

However, I want to emphasize that this funding does not mean that we can resume using public transportation at any time.


Those who can still work from home…

Those who can should always avoid all public transportation.

Even a fully restored service will only be able to transport – at best – one fifth of normal capacity, once social distance is taken into account.

So only if you need to travel and you can’t cycle, walk or drive, if you take a bus, tram or train.

But please; avoid rush hour.


We manage the transportation system to make it as secure as possible.

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

These marshals worked with the public to avoid overloading the services.

Starting June 1 at the earliest – as we move into phase 2 of unlocking – we will begin deploying twice as many commissioners with the help of groups like the charity – Volunteering Matters.

These Journey Makers will help reassure, advise and provide friendly assistance to commuters.

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

While these times are entirely more serious – if we show the same public concern for each other, it will go a long way in helping transportation and passengers cope.


As I said, scheduling trips and avoiding rush hours is essential.

That’s why, at a recent roundtable, we asked the tech industry to come up with innovative proposals to help passengers avoid congestion.

A good example is “Passenger Connect” from the Birmingham start-up ZipAbout.

A personalized information service that tells rail users how disruption and congestion can affect their journey, while offering alternatives and helping people maintain social distance.

The service has been successfully tested in the past 12 months and will be rolled out soon.

Building for the future

We are not only facing the immense challenges of the present.

We are also building for the future.

Transportation isn’t just about how we get from place to place.

He also shapes the place; for good or for bad…

Towns. Cities. Whole nations.

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

Rebalance the economy

One of these weaknesses is the UK’s unbalanced economy.

Our mission is to upgrade Britain.

The COVID-19 epidemic must be the catalyst to get there.

Upgrade. And accelerating.

So while roads and railroads are less busy, we are accelerating vital projects.

Take the North, for example.

This holiday weekend, we are carrying out essential work to repair Leeds station.

Continue to build a new platform …

… Installation of new points and switches…

… and the improvement of the runway to Wakefield.

Only part of 490 separate engineering projects taking place across the country this holiday weekend.

The work that would normally take months to close on weekends is much faster on these quieter railways.

Beech cuts

And we are continuing our plans to also reverse some of the so-called Beeching train cuts.

Dr. Beeching wrote a report in the 1960s that led to the shutdown of a third of our rail network.

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

Many places deleted from the map have never been recovered.

This report may be behind the “abandoned city”.

But we are 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 I also took the opportunity to visit Horden Peter Lee to see the construction work.

There was a train station 200 yards away, but it was closed and the town cut by Beeching’s ax.

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

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

It’s development funding …

… But if they stack up, we will build them quickly.

Among the many projects is the rehabilitation 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 train station in Wellington, Somerset.


But no matter how much we build the railroad of the future, millions of people will always depend on the car.

This is why I am releasing today the preferred route to complete the dual carriageway on the A66 from Scotch Corner to Penrith.

The first new two-lane highway crossing the Pennines in 50 years.

It is a billion dollar program that will transform capacity by improving junctions and widening the route.

These road and rail projects will be the first of many…

Connect our country and connect people to jobs.

Towns and cities

But it is not only the balance between regions that we need to reshape.

It’s hard to see the millions of people – until a few weeks ago – commuting by train to Manchester, London, Birmingham every day – immediately using the same methods.

So we also have to reshape our cities…

The Prime Minister once said:

Cities are the place of inspiration and innovation … because people can cross paths with each other, trigger each other, compete, collaborate, invent and innovate. This is where we get the explosion, or a flash of creativity and innovation.

And yet – with social isolation – it makes it all a little more difficult …

So we have to find new ways to do it.

Consequently – as far as conditions allow and not before July – we will seek to encourage the creative reopening of businesses, while maintaining a social distance.

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

Car park

For those who live too far to cycle and walk and who have to drive to the big cities, we will reuse the parking in places just outside the city centers …

… So that people can park on the outskirts and finish their trip on foot or by bike or even on an electric scooter.

Our goal with many of these measures is not simply to overcome the lifting of restrictions and then return to the current situation …

… But to emerge stronger from this recovery, by constantly changing the way we use transport.


Take the example of the bike, we previously announced the introduction of a program to help get bikes back in shape …

… Alleviating the pressure on public transport and improving the health of the country.

Today I can provide you with details of the new £ 50 bicycle maintenance order.

Available from next month, this program will help up to half a million people get their bikes out of retirement. …

… Accelerate the cycling revolution…

… Helping people to become fitter and healthier…

… And reduce air pollution, which remains a hidden killer.

Clean air should be as important a priority for us in the 21st century as clean water was for the Victorians in the 19th century.

The measures discussed today will help …

… More passengers use trains, buses and trams safely….

… More commuters to take active trips….

… And more people will benefit from improved infrastructure in the Northern Powerhouse and across the country.

They all give us the opportunity to harness the power of transport …

Not just to help us come back to life in the post-COVID-19 world…

… But to make our economy more resilient.

Our population is healthier.

And to change our nation for the better.

See also

Transport Secretary Announces New Measures To “Keep Passengers Safe Now And Upgrade For The Future”, news story, May 23, 2020


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