The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson today (10 March) has set out his vision to boost transport connectivity across the country, including a plan to consult on cutting air passenger duty (APD) on internal UK flights.
He wants to “build back better” from coronavirus as part of ambitions to “level up” across the country.
As part of this, he will commit £20m to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links.
The measures were announced following the interim report of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review (UCR) , published today. In June, Hendy was tasked by the prime minister with exploring ways in which transport can better connect all parts of the United Kingdom.
Hendy’s report sets out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would help deliver this ambition. According to the report, such a network would “significantly” expand and upgrade direct transport connections in the UK across road, rail, sea and air, helping to reduce delays and bottlenecks and stimulate economic growth.
It has also announced that the consultation on aviation tax reform, announced at Budget 2020, will be published in Spring 2021.
The consultation will include options to change the APD treatment for domestic flights, such as reintroducing a return leg exemption or creation of a new lower domestic rate.
In addition to looking at the case for increasing the number of international distance bands, it will continue to decarbonise domestic aviation as part of its ambition to reach net zero, including through mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels. All domestic aviation emissions are captured in carbon budgets.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, said: “It’s now time to build back better in a way which brings every corner of the UK closer together. We will harness the incredible power of infrastructure to level up parts of our country that have too long been left off the transport map.
“This pioneering review by Sir Peter Hendy gives us the tools we need to deliver on our ambitions for a UK-wide transport network that encompasses sea, rail, and road – and I also want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country.”
The potential network will now form the main focus of Hendy’s continuing investigations, with his final report in the summer looking to identify specific transport upgrades that could form the backbone of the network’s ambitions.
To jump-start some of the projects identified by Hendy, the Government has today committed £20m towards exploring the development of projects, such as improved rail connectivity between the North coast of Wales and England and improved rail links across the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “As we build back better from Covid it is more important than ever that we level-up every corner of our great country.
“Quality transport infrastructure is key to achieving that, which is why we are committed to boosting connectivity and bringing communities across the UK even closer together.”
The UK Government will work closely with relevant devolved administrations on development studies. For example, the UK government will work closely with the Scottish Government on any feasibility study on the A75.
Hendy has spoken with over a hundred organisations and received nearly 150 submissions to his call for evidence. As a result, he has been able to identify some of the most pressing issues for connecting all parts of the UK.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE said: “Devolution has been good for transport but it has also led to a lack of attention to connectivity between the four nations, due to competing priorities and complex funding. A UK Strategic Transport Network could resolve this, with its core objective centred around levelling up across the whole of the UK.”
The Government will receive the final UCR recommendations ahead of the Spending Review, where it will consider and confirm funding plans for delivering improved connectivity across the UK.
While the review looks to the future, the Government continues to support current Union connectivity measures and recently provided a further £4.3 million to fund a two-year extension to the flight route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted – beginning on 1 April which they have said will boost local economies on both sides.