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Work of the Department

Volume 667: debated on Thursday 31 October 2019

Transport plays a critical part in all our lives and is central to some of the biggest issues the country faces, including decarbonisation, growing our economy and uniting the country. I would like to update the House on key recent achievements by the Department for Transport.


Launched the Williams Rail Review in September 2018 to look at the structure of the whole rail industry, including increasing integration between track and train, regional partnerships, and improving value for money for users and taxpayers.

Invested record levels in the railway between 2014 and 2019, with over £40 billion being spent on enhancing, renewing, and maintaining the network. £15 billion of this was spent on enhancing the railway. This included:

Capacity enhancement projects such as additional platforms, for example at Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester airport stations; and rail line capacity upgrades, such as re-signalling between Plymouth and Penzance, and four-tracking on the Filton Bank in Bristol.

Completing major infrastructure upgrades as part of the Thameslink programme in December 2018, creating 24 train paths per hour between Blackfriars and St Pancras, including readiness for digital signalling and automatic trains.

Opening new routes such as the reinstatement of the Halton curve, which enables passenger services from north Wales and West Cheshire to directly access Liverpool City Centre and airport for the first time in more than 40 years.

Electrification of the Great Western Mainline between London and Cardiff, due to be completed early in 2020.

Over 4,300 additional rail services per week have been introduced since May 2018.

Confirmed £47.9 billion is available for the railway between 2019 and 2024. This spending will be targeted on operations, maintenance and renewals to deliver a modern, reliable service for passengers across the network.

£450 million committed to digital rail as part of the national productivity investment fund at Autumn statement 2016.

Rail fares

Cancelled above-inflation (RPI) rail fare rises every year since 2014.

Introduced the new 26 to 30 Rail Card in January 2019, allowing 4.5 million young people to travel by train for less, and launched the new 16 and 17 Railcard which from September 2019 will give up to 1.2 million young people a guaranteed 50% discount on rail travel

Introduced the “Delay Repay 15” scheme in 2016 which allows passengers to claim compensation when trains are more than 15 minutes late.

Over 8,000 new railway carriages have been ordered since 2010.

More than 80% of passenger rail vehicles by summer 2019 now have on-train wi-fi available

We have committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail and are working with Transport for the North on proposals to improve the rail network across the north.

In August 2019, launched an independent review into HS2 to advise the Government on whether and how to proceed with the project. The review is ongoing.

Regional and devolution

Through the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2017, created new powers to put sub-national transport bodies (STBs) on a statutory footing. Transport for the north’s status was enshrined in law in April 2018.

As part of the Northern Powerhouse:

Established Transport for the North, bringing together northern transport authorities with the task of working with Government to create the first ever comprehensive transport strategy for the region, covering roads, rail, freight, airports and smart ticketing.

Committed record investment of over £13 billion in the strategic roads, local roads and rail infrastructure of the north between 2015 and 2020.

Local transport

Established a new £2.5 billion transforming cities fund, with funding announced at autumn budgets in 2017 and in 2018. Allocated £1.08 billion of the transforming cities fund to the six mayoral combined authorities. £1.3 billion is being made available competitively to 12 shortlisted cities. Initial funding for “quick win” transport projects in the initial shortlisted cities was allocated in March 2019.

Announced in September 2019 that 14 major road network and large local major schemes will go forward for further development. These included the Tyne Bridge and central motorway renewal and the A140 Long Stratton Bypass in Norfolk. On 18 October the York outer ring road became the first MRN scheme to be granted programme entry.

Around £1.7 billion has been awarded so far for 13 schemes through 2018 and 2019 from MHCLG’s housing infrastructure fund. These include delivery of significant new transport infrastructure, with £102 million towards delivering the Carlisle Southern Link Road, and £218 million towards a bypass and new bridges for the Didcot Garden Village.

In December 2018, published the results of a consultation on the creation of the major road network, which brought over 5,000 miles of local authority A roads into scope for new funding from the national roads fund.

Between 2011 and 2019, approved 74 major local transport schemes with over £2.3 billion of funding such as the extension of Nottingham Tram, Heysham to M6 Link Road and the A43 Corby bypass; and the Preston Western Distributor Road.

Played a key part in the setting up of the local growth fund, and made a contribution of over £7 billion to the £12 billion total, which devolved real spending decisions to local enterprise partnerships and prioritised over 500 transport schemes through growth deals in three funding rounds in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Allocated a record level of funding of over £6.6 billion to local authorities for local road maintenance in the period 2015-21, including a dedicated pothole action fund.


Launched the “Better deal for bus users” in September 2019, a £220 million package to boost bus services. This includes trialling a new “superbus” network approach to deliver low fares, high frequency services in Cornwall, expanding our fleet of low emission buses with an all-electric bus town, funding to enable local authorities to improve current bus services or to restore lost services, and investment in bus priority measures in the West Midlands.

Committed £48 million to fund 263 zero emission buses in 2019.

Supported local authority spending of around £1billion per year on concessionary bus travel, enabling older and disabled people to make free off-peak bus journeys and helping them stay more connected to their communities and social surroundings.


Government spending on cycling and walking has increased to around £2 billion over the 2016/17-2020/21 spending review period.

Invested over £40 million in the cycle rail programme since 2012 which has tripled the number of cycle parking spaces at over 500 stations, bringing the total to over 80,000.

Invested £22 million in 33 new and upgraded cycle routes on the national cycle network this year.

Launched a £2 million e-cargo bike grant programme in February 2019 to support the uptake of e-cargo bikes.

Announced a further £13 million in the Bike-ability training for school children in October 2018, to extend the scheme into 2020-21. In the year up to April 2019, around 400,000 children completed the scheme.

Secured funding through the cycle city ambition programme to improve cycling infrastructure in eight cities to get more people cycling by improving and expanding cycle routes between the city centres, local communities, and key employment and retail sites.

Published the first ever statutory cycling and walking investment strategy in April 2017.

Strategic roads and safety

Made good progress in delivering the first road investment strategy. At the end of the fourth year of the strategy, in March 2019, Highways England had started work on 28 schemes, in addition to the 16 schemes where works were ongoing at the start of the strategy; opened 29 schemes for traffic; and had 15 schemes in construction.

Ended tolls on the Severn Crossing in December 2018.

Announced that a second roads investment strategy will start in April 2020 with a record funding allocation of £25.3 billion from the national roads fund.

Produced a refreshed road safety statement in 2019 with a two-year action plan for four priority road user groups; young road users, rural road users, motorcyclists, and older vulnerable road users.

Strengthened drink-drive enforcement by removing—Deregulation Act 2015—the automatic right for drivers who fail a breathalyser test to demand a blood and urine test—"statutory option”—removing the opportunity to sober up while waiting for the test to be taken.

Provided £100 million of funding for the “safer roads fund” to improve the safety of 50 of England’s most dangerous local A roads.

Motoring and the environment

Launched the road to zero in 2018, our strategy on the transition to zero emission road transport, including that all new cars and vans will be effectively zero-emission by 2040.

Launched a new £400 million electric vehicle charging infrastructure investment fund, the first £70 million of which was allocated in September 2019 for 3000 rapid charge points, more than doubling the number across the UK to 5000.

Published the Clean Air Strategy 2019, which is the most ambitious air quality strategy in a generation, aiming to halve the harm to human health from air pollution in the UK by 2030.

We are investing in one of the most comprehensive global programmes of support for ultralow emission vehicles, including grants for vehicles and charge point infrastructure;

Since 2011, the plug-in car grant has supported the sale of over 170,000 vehicles ultralow-emission cars in the UK by Q2 2019, up from 111 in 2010, based on cars eligible for plug-in car grant support; including those cars not eligible for grant, there are currently 210,000 licensed ULEVs in total.

The electric vehicles home-charge scheme (EVHS) has supported over 120,000 charge points being installed in homes to date. All chargers installed using this grant must be smart from July 2019.

Invested £20 million to deliver new, dedicated charge points for electric taxis in local areas, with funding awarded to 27 local authorities in 2017 and 2019.

Hosted the world’s first international zero-emission vehicle summit in September 2018.

Tackling poor air quality

Published the 2017 N02 plan and its 2018 supplement, which has led to 61 local authorities being required to assess what action is needed to address the exceedances.

Committed £495 million as part of the Government commitment to improving transport and tackling air quality, which has now increased to £572 million technology and innovation

Committed £250 million to help position the UK as a global leader in the development and deployment of connected and self-driving vehicles, and have launched 90 projects as of summer 2019, involving over 200 organisations.

Created the centre for connected and autonomous vehicles (CCAV) in 2015 to help position the UK as a global leader in the development and deployment of connected and self-driving vehicles.

Passed the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act (2018) through Parliament to enable drivers of automated cars to be insured on UK roads, and are working with the Law Commission on exploring regulations for self-driving vehicles.

Launched the future of mobility urban strategy in 2019 which set out nine principles to guide the UK's approach to emerging mobility technologies and services, as well as actions for regulatory reviews of further areas such as e-scooters.


In August 2019 the eligibility for disabled parking badges—blue badges—was expanded to include those with non-visible disabilities or conditions, where these severely affect an individual’s mobility.

Following improvements to the service, the percentage of blue badge applications submitted online has increased substantially, with 61.2% online in October 2019

Launched the inclusive transport strategy in 2018, to create a transport system that provides equal access for disabled people by 2030, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.

Progress has been made, for example by mid-2019, 91% of heavy rail vehicles met modern accessibility requirements and 99% of buses either had an accessibility certificate or had low-floor access by March 2018, compared to only 81% at March 2010.


Launched Operation Matterhorn to repatriate over 140,000 people over a two-week period in Autumn 2019, resulting in the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation effort to date. The Civil Aviation Authority led the operation with support from HM Government, covering over 700 flights with support from 50 partners from around the world. About 94% of people were flown back on the original day of their cancelled Thomas Cook flight.


In 2019, along with BEIS, HMT and the devolved Administrations, consulted on options for ensuring that our post-Brexit approach to emissions trading is at least as ambitious as the current arrangement.

Worked with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to secure the first worldwide scheme to address CO2 emissions in any single sector, the carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (CORSIA)

Established the independent commission on civil aviation noise in 2019, an important voice for communities concerned about the impact of aviation .

Passenger interests

Updated the ATOL scheme and brought it in to line with modern trade practices. In 2012, updated the scheme to address gaps in consumer protection by extending the ATOL scheme to include “flight-plus” arrangements. Then, passed the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Act 2017 to allow for UK businesses to trade across Europe more easily, and ensure a wider body of consumers are protected.

Sustainable growth

Set out that airspace modernisation, reforming the way airspace is used, is vital to help deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys for passengers and businesses, legislation is forthcoming.

Made progress on delivering a revised aviation strategy, which aims to make the country’s aviation sector world-leading in prioritising passengers, fostering sustainable growth, and promoting trade


Protected air routes into London that are in danger of being lost by providing financial support for several routes through public service obligations, currently routes from London to Dundee, Derry and Newquay.


Implemented a package of new legislation to keep our skies safe and secure, including extending the zones around airports in which it is illegal to fly drones above 400 feet or within the airport’s air traffic zone.

Worked with the Home Office, the police, and the Ministry of Justice to introduce primary legislation providing police with new powers to help tackle the misuse of unmanned aircraft, and contributed to the Home Office counter unmanned aircraft strategy.

Responded successfully to planned disruption by Heathrow Pause at Heathrow airport in September 2019.

Aviation Security

Created the first aviation security strategy in 2018 that sets out our strategic response to the threats to civil aviation. This is currently being revised.

Regulated that all major airports must introduce new 3D cabin baggage screening equipment by the end of 2022.

Aviation Skills

Recruiting a new general aviation advocate, and nine general aviation ambassadors.

Launched the women in aviation and aerospace charter in 2018, which seeks to bridge the diversity gap.

Launched the reach for the sky programme with the aim to increase the number of young people entering the sector as well as increase diversity.

Maritime safety

Published the maritime safety action plan in 2019, which sets out a number of actions to achieve ambitious safety targets.

Maritime growth

London international shipping week took place in 2019, helping to advance London’s status as the world’s capital for maritime services and demonstrate the UK maritime sector’s world-leading capabilities.

Published the maritime 2050 strategy in 2019, which provides a long-term strategic vision for the sector. It establishes clear trajectories against which Government and business can plan for the long-term, maintaining the UK's position as a global maritime leader through to 2050.

Maritime environment

Published the clean maritime plan in 2019 which sets out how Government see the UK’s transition to a future of zero-emission shipping. It includes that by 2025, all new vessels being ordered for use in UK waters are designed with zero-emission propulsion capability, and zero-emission commercial vessels are in operation in UK waters.

Other departmental priorities

Provided significant input into the Government’s 2018 year of engineering, leading to 5.1 million direct experiences of engineering for seven to 16-year-olds.

Published the transport infrastructure skills strategy and set up a task force to deliver it. By mid-2019, some 5,000 new apprenticeships had been created.

Published the transport investment strategy in 2017 which sets out the Department for Transport's priorities and approach for future transport investment decisions. Government have since confirmed that it is spending £72 billion in the five years to 2020-21 on transport. This strategy ensures Government’s investment decisions are aligned to wider goals, including building a stronger more balanced economy.

Published the transport infrastructure efficiency strategy in 2017.

Published the rail sector deal in December 2018 to build on the strong partnership working between the rail sector and the Government to exploit the opportunities of new technologies, improve the efficient use of our rail network capacity and enhance the experience of those who use our railways.

Established an organisation to boost the export of UK transport expertise.


Substantial work preparing for Brexit and ensuring that sufficient contingency plans are in place in the event of a no-deal to keep freight moving and ensuring the supply of essential medicines into the country.


Passed the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 which will ensure that the UK has the powers it needs to support British hauliers to continue operating internationally after exiting the EU.


Put in place measures to ensure that flights between the UK and the EU can continue in any Brexit scenario.

Secured new bilateral agreements or effective mitigations in place for the 17 non-EU countries where market access is currently provided for by virtue of our EU membership. This includes new agreements with the US and Canada.

Put in place new arrangements to cover bilateral aviation safety agreements (BASA’s) with the US, Canada and Brazil, which are currently provided for by virtue of our EU membership.

Ensured that in any Brexit scenario, UK security standards will be recognised, allowing for the continued flow of air cargo between the UK and EU.


£10 million for 16 ports across England to help their preparation for Brexit through the port infrastructure resilience and connectivity fund.

Secured the supply of vital medicines to the UK after Brexit, whatever the circumstances.