North West communities awarded £46.8m boost to build for the future

Communities in the North West will benefit from more than £46.8m in funding to increase light rail services, regenerate local economies and make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today (May 23) that the North West has been allocated a share of £225m announced earlier this month, to create new and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space to give more room to pedestrians and cyclists.

The remaining £25m of emergency funding will be used to help people get their bikes repaired so they can get back to cycling.

On Friday, the Transport Secretary amended laws to reduce red tape and halve the time it takes for councils to get these schemes up and running, helping local authorities accommodate for the step-change in behaviour as more people turn to cycling and walking.

This comes as additional funding is made available for bus and light rail services across England – including £13.3m for the Manchester Metrolink to help increase the number of services as quickly as possible.

The funding will give operators the resources to ramp up light rail services, allowing people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines.

Ten bids have also been announced today to receive a share of a £500,000 Restoring Your Railways ‘Ideas Fund’ to develop proposals to build or reopen railway lines and stations, including those closed following the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

Two schemes in the North West have been awarded up to £50,000 each from the fund to progress plans to improve local connectivity, bringing communities one step closer to better rail connections with the capacity to boost job opportunities and ease congestion.

Grant Shapps said: “To make sure people can travel safely when they need to, we are increasing capacity on buses and light rail, as well as helping local authorities fast-track plans to support cyclists and pedestrians, further reducing pressure on our transport network.

“These measures will help keep passengers safe now, but we must also prepare for what comes next.

“Strengthening vital road and railway connections, as well as encouraging cycling and walking, will be essential to our ambition to level up the country, secure a green legacy, and kick-start regional economies, as we build out of COVID-19 and look to the future.”

Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “We’re living in a time where many people are cycling and walking more than they did before, and we must build on this opportunity to bring about longer-term change – where active travel is viewed as the default for shorter journeys, long after this crisis has finished.

“This funding for the North West will help councils provide more space for walking and cycling and make it easier for people to get out and about and reduce the pressure on public transport.”

As part of plans to build on the numbers of people who have taken to their bikes during the coronavirus pandemic, Government is investing more than £466,000 to make stations across the North West better for people who want to build cycling into part of a longer journey once restrictions are eased.

This investment from the latest round of Cycle Rail funding will pay for 334 bike spaces at 10 railway stations. This will encourage, when restrictions are lifted, people to incorporate cycling as part of a longer journey.

MPs and local authorities were invited to bid for a share of the Ideas Fund. In the North West the funding will progress the development of plans for the reinstatement of the line between Bury and Rochdale which could create access between Heywood and Manchester city centre and other local centres, providing access to employment and education and reduce congestion on the roads.

Plans to reinstate the Clitheroe to Hellifield line will also be progressed to improve connectivity between Lancashire and Yorkshire and level up education and job opportunities.

There are still plenty of opportunities for communities and MPs to come forward with proposals on how they could use funding to restore disused stations and lines to enhance their local rail networks through the Ideas Fund which is open for a second round of applications. A third round of funding will open in the Autumn.

Proposals to reinstate passenger services and enhancing freight capacity between Skipton and Colne have also been progressing as further work looking at reinstating the passenger services continues.

Today’s package follows the announcement of £244m for the North West from the Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund which is being invested to help councils improve roads, repair bridges and fill millions of potholes in their communities.