Department for Transport News

23 May 2020

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

  • North West to benefit from £33.5m emergency active travel grant for new cycling and walking lanes
  • £13.3m in funding to ramp up critical light rail services in Manchester
  • Two projects in the region also awarded up to £50k each to develop plans to reopen lines and stations closed in the Beeching cuts reconnecting communities

Communities in the North West will benefit from more than £46.8 million in funding to increase light rail services, regenerate local economies and make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced today (Saturday 23 May).

The North West has been allocated a share of £225 million 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 £25 million 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 £13.3 million 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 £500k 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 £50k 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.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:  

“From NHS staff to transport and shop workers, teachers, volunteers and all those staying at home, people across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe. 

“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 kickstart 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 £466k 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 ten 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.

The Transport Secretary has also agreed to give £5 million from Restoring Your Railways funding to develop proposals to drive forward the return of passenger services on the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line in Northumberland, in addition to the £1.5m initially pledged. 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.

The Government has today also announced the preferred route for the £1 billon A66 Transpennine upgrade, which will provide vital improvements to a key regional link which helps to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich, improving journey times, reliability and resilience for communities across the North. The new scheme will dual the six remaining single carriageway sections of the route and upgrade key junctions, speeding up journeys, easing congestion and boosting growth. The road is an important link across the Pennines and is a key connection used on routes between ports around the country, meaning that the wider UK economy will benefit from improvements and faster journeys.  

Today’s package follows the announcement of £244 million 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.

Contact Information

Hannah Kotaidis

Notes to editors

Cycling / walking

  • Many Local Authorities have already started to install measures that will enable more people to walk and cycle whilst keeping two metres apart. In Liverpool, a package has been announced to introduce up to 100 km of “pop up” cycle lanes along key routes.
  • The emergency active travel grant is the first stage of funding out of the £2 billion active travel package announced this month, and part of a £5 billion new funding announced in February pledged to transform cycle, walking and bus links and level up local transport connections across the country. Local authorities’ receipt of the funding is subject to them satisfying the Department that their plans are appropriate.
  • This will be vital on top of the £1.7 billion already announced by the Government to help local highway authorities improve local road surfaces for cyclists and pedestrians from the Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund.
  • It also ties with the Government’s overall Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy which sets out how it plans to double cycling, and to increase the numbers of people walking by 2025.  
  • The Government has also amended laws to speed-up the process for local authorities to push through these changes – for example moving the process online for new emergency traffic orders which will halve the time needed for approval, so that changes to the roads and pavements for people cycling and walking can be put in place more quickly. 

Light Rail/buses funding

  • Backdated to 12 May, the £283m investment will help increase bus and light rail services in line with social distancing guidelines, with measures to keep staff and passengers safe during the pandemic, including adjustments to vehicles, signage, deep cleaning and the provision of hand sanitiser.  
  • Manchester is estimated to receive £13.3m in light rail funding.


  • The Ideas Fund is part of the wider £500million Restoring Your Railway funding announced in January to re-open stations and restore services on lines that were closed in the Beeching cuts.
  • As part of the Restoring Your Railway Fund, the Government also launched £20 million for a fresh round of the New Stations Fund which will benefit some areas that may never have been served by rail. The next round of funding is now open for applications with the deadline for bids closing in early June. 
  • The Transport Secretary has also agreed to give £5m to further develop the plan to reinstate passenger services on the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line in Northumberland, in addition to the £1.5m initially pledged.   
  • The cuts, which were initially proposed by British Rail chief Dr Richard Beeching in 1963, ended passenger services on around a third of the rail network, closing more than 2,300 stations and up to 5,000 miles of track across the UK.


  • The A66 is an important local and regional road, linking the east and west of northern England across the Pennines, from the M6 junction 40 at Penrith to the A1(M) at Scotch Corner.   
  • Results from the public consultation held last year as well as other important factors including minimising community severance and ensuring environmental protection were used to select the preferred route.  
  • Following preferred route announcement, Highways England will commence a range of engagement activities including holding focus groups with local stakeholders.  In the coming months the project will move into the preliminary design phase which will involve more detailed surveys and refinement of the scheme design in preparation for the statutory public consultation in 2021.   






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