Shapps outlines cost of propping up public transport during Covid-19 pandemic

Up to £12.6 billion of taxpayers’ cash is expected to be spent on propping up public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Grant Shapps.

The Transport Secretary revealed the estimate before confirming £35.4 million will be available to help keep tram services running for the next 12 weeks.

Operators in Sheffield, Tyne and Wear, Manchester and Blackpool will be among those to benefit, Mr Shapps told MPs.

Speaking in the Commons, he said: “The Government will continue to provide the support that is necessary to maintain public transport throughout this pandemic.

“It may be helpful to the House if I were to let them know that the department is expecting to spend between £10.6 billion and £12.6 billion on supporting the transport sector in response to this pandemic.”

Mr Shapps also said there is “no magic wand” to support struggling industries during the pandemic.

Tory MP Paul Howell (Sedgefield) urged the Government to offer greater support to coach companies, which have to cover running costs at a time of limited services.

He said: “There’s no swimming baths, no Beamish, no Hadrian’s Wall, no excursions, no football, and no nights out in Darlington, Durham or Newcastle.

“Could he please encourage the Chancellor to find something from somewhere to support this industry that is the glue that connects our citizens?”

Mr Shapps replied: “It is, of course, a fact that those parts of the economy… are not up and functioning right now and so the Government needs to do things to provide support for the sector, which we have been doing across all UK businesses, but in particular the September 24 winter economy plan from the Chancellor in order to try to assist.

“While also recognising that the Government doesn’t have a magic-wand solution to ensuring that business is running at its usual capacity while we’re tackling Covid.”

On tram funding, Mr Shapps later announced: “That will go to local authorities and operators in Sheffield, Tyne and Wear, Manchester and Blackpool.

“They will be amongst those who will share £35.4 million, which I’m announcing today, over the next 12 weeks to keep those essential services running.”

Conservative MP Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) also asked for an update on testing at airports in order to reduce the quarantine period for those entering UK ports.

Mr Shapps replied: “The global travel taskforce is working on an implementation of really some quite complex issues related to, for example, testing at airports – whether testing at airports actually provides the solution.

“As we know, what’s required at the moment according to the best science is still a period of self-isolation followed by a test which could take place either at an airport or perhaps even at a more convenient, more local location.”