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Local Transport Infrastructure

Volume 674: debated on Tuesday 24 March 2020

The Government are committed to improving the vital transport links that people rely on every day. That is why in the Budget we announced a £500 million a year fund for potholes, confirmed £1 billion for shovel-ready local transport schemes through the transforming cities fund, and set out the Government’s intention to agree long-term intra-city transport settlements worth more than £4 billion.

I thank my right hon. Friend for all that he is doing. Businesses in my resort constituency have been delivered a significant blow due to covid-19. In good times, funding for the Burscough rail link would be a boost; in bad times, it could be business critical. Will he work with the Department for Transport and do everything he can to ensure that we get the funding for that vital link for our town?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the impact on hotel and hospitality businesses in particular. I hope he welcomes the significant cash grant support and business rates holidays for those businesses. With regard to his rail line, he is absolutely right about the importance of such links, which is why we set up a £500 million Beeching cuts reversal fund. I know the Department for Transport would be happy to hear from him.

Rail links will be essential to revitalising the economy once we exit this very difficult period. In Burnley, we have a fantastic rail link that connects us into Manchester, but unfortunately, at the minute, the station is not disability friendly. I know several stations across the country have been given funding to get them disability friendly, and I wonder whether a similar scheme will be announced in the future so that Burnley can finally get a bridge over its platforms.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he does championing improved accessibility for his disabled constituents, which is why in the Budget we announced £50 million to remodel 12 stations. I spoke to the Secretary of State for Transport this morning about Burnley Manchester Road station, and he is happy to take a call from my hon. Friend.

Transport infrastructure and, indeed, all infrastructure relies on the construction industry, and in particular its workforce. We have had reports of workers working in close proximity in construction—indeed, I have seen that myself, including at transport-related facilities this morning—in some cases with no hygienic support and no evidence of enhanced cleaning. The industry has been described as a breeding ground for infection. What action is being taken to protect workers in that industry?

The hon. Member is absolutely right: we must ensure the safety of our workers in their industries. The guidance from the Government last night was clear that people should go to work if they cannot work from home. In common with other countries such as Italy or France, construction has remained open, but of course it is right that that is done safely. I know that my right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary is in touch with the sector and I believe that he has had conversations about guidance in this regard.

My local bus company is one of many, I am sure, across the country that has had to introduce short-time working, but it is unsure about the implementation of the Chancellor’s very welcome wage subsidy. Will the Treasury top up the wages of those working two or three-day weeks, or does it have to lay off, say, 70% of the workforce and rely on the remainder to cover the rest of the routes, putting themselves at risk for a similar amount of money? Can the Chancellor clear that up for us, please?

We said that we would aim to have the scheme up and running by the April payroll. This is a brand new system that has to be designed from scratch. Claims could be backdated from 1 March, which will provide significant support to businesses and jobs, and in common with all other schemes like this across the world, the scheme applies to furloughed workers in proportion to the hours they have worked—but to workers who are put on furlough rather than being retained in employment.