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Railway industry publishes new report on the economic value of rail


A new economic report published by independent researchers Oxford Economics shows a UK railway industry powering ahead before the pandemic struck last year.

The report, commissioned by the Railway Industry Association (RIA), shows UK rail as a major economic sector, driving growth, investment and jobs right across the UK. With the Government now looking for sectors which can help the country bounce back better, it further highlights how the sector can lead the economic recovery post-Covid.

Oxford Economics found that in 2019, the latest point where economic data is available, the rail industry supported:

  • £43 billion GVA in economic growth, compared to £36.4 billion in 2016;
  • 710,000 jobs, compared to 600,000 in 2016;
  • £14 billion in tax revenue each year, compared to £11 billion in 2016; and
  • For every £1 spent in rail, £2.50 of income was generated in the wider economy, compared to £2.20 in 2016.

The report also looks at future scenarios for rail investment, based on National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) research. For example, using the NIC scenarios, the report shows that if rail investment is increased by 50%, the rail sector would contribute to the economy an additional £5.6 billion per year between 2025 and 2029, with an extra 104,000 individuals employed in the industry as a result.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “This new research by Oxford Economics reveals that, pre pandemic, the railway industry was growing, and supporting even more jobs and GVA than just a few years earlier. In 2016, every pound spent in rail generated £2.20 of spending in the wider economy, yet by 2019 this had risen to £2.50. This shows that rail is not just an important sector in its own right, but is also crucial for UK plc more widely, its economy and connectivity.

“As the Government seeks to build back better – with a growing economy, which levels-up, is green, and which helps promote Global Britain – it should look no further than the UK railway industry. This report by Oxford Economics shows a bourgeoning rail sector before the pandemic and how rail can provide more economic growth in the future. As passengers now return to the network we should be optimistic about rail’s ability to help with the recovery. With the right Government policy and support, UK rail can continue to be the economic powerhouse the UK will need in the months and years to come.”

Doug Godden, Lead Economist at Oxford Economics, said: “We are delighted to produce this economic research on the value of rail for the Railway Industry Association, showing that the rail industry is a sizeable sector supporting jobs and economic value across the UK. The report shows that the sector had grown significantly from 2016 to 2019 and that, under the National Infrastructure Commission’s scenarios, the industry could produce even more economic value through further rail investment.”

Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, said at the launch of the report: “I really welcome this new report by the researchers at Oxford Economics looking at the economic contribution of rail back in 2019.

“It’s incredibly timely because effectively we need to do this all over again, when it comes to the investment we’ve seen from rail over the last 20 years or so – the doubling of passenger numbers since privatisation. Now more than ever, we need that same zeal and enthusiasm and dynamism which the industry has brought to deliver that success, so we can now pick back up after the pandemic has laid rail numbers low.”

Nick Crossfield, Alstom Managing Director, UK&I said: “We welcome, but are not surprised, by the report’s findings. As the UK’s leading rail sector supplier, we know just how important the rail industry is to transport, to the wider economy and to a low carbon future”.

Kelly Warburton, Unipart Rail’s Managing Director UK Rail & Europe said: “It is so important that the value of the UK rail system is fully understood across the industry and in Government. This new report provides weight to the argument that investment is not only required, but is necessary to support the future prosperity of multiple sectors outside rail and the wider country. We fully support this important contribution to the debate, and commit to supporting the growth of the industry over the coming years through our services that accelerate progress, address environmental challenges and introduces more digital solutions.”

James Quinnell, Chief Commercial Officer, Colas Rail, said: “This timely research confirms and quantifies with hard data the central role the rail network plays in our country’s progress. A thriving railway which puts passengers and freight users at its heart is not only a great business case for investment but is critical to the whole economy and wider society.”

Lizi Stewart, Managing Director, UK Transportation at Atkins, said: “By evaluating the pre-Covid growth of the industry, this report highlights the critical role rail can play in driving economy recovery across all regions of the UK.

“As the rail industry continues to grow, there is a great opportunity for ED&I to be placed at its core, to deliver a sustainable workforce to tackle current and future issues such as Net Zero and the continued Covid recovery. Atkins welcomes the findings of this report, and we look forward to supporting industry and the Government to help the rail industry connect people, businesses and communities, creating vibrant economies where people can thrive.”

The full report can be found at https://we.tl/t-jRlqEhW1Mn



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Rail Industry welcomes agreement on Australia-UK Free Trade Deal


15 June 2021: The Railway Industry Association, and a number of its members, have welcomed the signing today of an Agreement in Principle between the Australian and UK Governments, paving the way for a Free Trade Agreement.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), commented: “The UK has long had a close relationship with the Australian railway sector, and it remains as a top priority market for rail suppliers.

“Many UK rail businesses are already winning work in Australia and a free trade agreement between the UK and Australia offers even greater opportunities. It should mean more access to government contracts and mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and also allow UK professionals to work in Australia more easily.

“So we look forward to the UK railway industry working closely with the Department for International Trade, to make the most of these opportunities and boost trade with new partners around the world.”

A number of RIA Members have also welcomed the Agreement.

Craig Harvey, British Steel Commercial Director Rail, said: “Railway operators in Australia currently face an unnecessary 5% import tax. The Australian rail market’s annual spend on rails and sleepers will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so an FTA that would remove that 5% tax would create a substantial saving for the industry.

“An FTA would also allow British Steel to be more competitive in a market that is crucial to the Australian economy, enabling us to support population growth and resultant freight and passenger movements.”

Justin Moss, Head of Sales Electrification for Siemens Mobility, said: “Siemens Mobility Electrification is based across the UK, including in Lincolnshire, and manufacture products for local rail applications, such as air insulated 25kv switchboards. To date it has not been successful in winning work in Australia via the UK but it is now actively discussing export opportunities for key products and hoping a reciprocal FTA could support that.

“The products we manufacture in the UK have similar standards and requirements to Australia making export a logical next step. The removal of up to 5% tariffs on these products through an FTA will increase the competitiveness of UK manufactured goods, supporting UK jobs and skills investment.”

Andrew Foulkes, Global Marketing Lead at Ricardo Rail, said: “Approximately 25% of our rail sector revenue derives from Australia and we expect this to grow as we look to take advantage of its burgeoning domestic market. A UK-Australia FTA which supports the movement of skilled workers between the UK and Australia will help us transfer skills and knowledge between our UK and Australia teams.”

Rita Mascia, Altro’s Global Bid Manager – Rail, said: “A favourable FTA will ensure Altro continue to be a competitive player within the Australian marketplace, as one of the biggest challenges for us comes from competition from European countries manufacturers who have EU negotiated agreements. Even a small decrease in tariffs would enable us to compete on quality instead of on price. An increase in our rail business will contribute to the growth of our Australian subsidiary of Altro and generate additional employment. Finally, our Australian business is also strategically important in supporting our route to market in South East Asian countries. Favourable FTA gains in Australia will also benefit our growth in the Asia Pacific region.”

Adam Elliott, Rail Project Engineer at Hird Rail Development, said: “A free trade agreement that would result in a reduction in duty costs would make our products a lot more attractive to Australian customers from a cost perspective. As well as generating key jobs within our distributors organisation, with offices based in Sydney and Brisbane.”

Kirsty Dias, Managing Director of PriestmanGoode, said: “A Free Trade Agreement would mean that we could bring our expertise and design skills in both rail and parallel industries to Australia. To work alongside transit providers and local suppliers to create a future rail and transport system across Australia that provides a world ‘best in class’ travel experience as well as building local specialist knowledge and bringing employment through collaboration.”



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It’s time for joined-up thinking so that we can all breathe easier


The UK has an opportunity to lead the way on the global problem of air pollution – but as the latest figures highlight, there’s no time to waste on an issue this pressing.

Put simply, there is no “safe” level of pollutants when it comes to the air we breathe. UK laws currently adhere to EU guidance on fine air particulates (known as PM2.5), which are four times above the World Health Organisation’s PM2.5 legal maximum – and as more and more research finds health impacts of PM2.5 at lower concentrations than the EU’s limits, the UK Government should look to match WHO-approved levels instead.

That’s the recommendation from experts in new publication On Air Quality. The report, released by The University of Manchester’s policy engagement unit, [email protected], looks at the positive impact tackling air pollution could have on everything from individuals’ health to the national economy. It argues that decision-makers from across academia, the public and private sectors, and both local and national government, must come together to create air quality policies that are fit for purpose.

The report also recommends a joined-up approach to tackling air quality and climate change. Approaching both in tandem, it says, will optimise policy efficiency and outcomes – and to maximise the co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality, a common policy framework should be developed. Currently, the UK has no policy framework that simultaneously considers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutant concentrations in planning regulations, which the report’s experts fear is both inefficient and ineffective. When either is approached in isolation, they warn, the other could fail entirely.

Children are disproportionately affected by poor air quality thanks to their higher breathing rate and greater levels of physical activity compared to adults. The On Air Quality publication not only highlights the part indoor and outdoor air pollution can play in children’s respiratory health, but also points to growing evidence that poor air quality contributes to brain-related health problems in children, including cognitive decline. One recent study found that exposure to air pollutants in very early life was linked to a worse change in IQ between the ages of 11 and 70.

Given how much of their time children spend in school, the question of how clean we keep the air around our schools is of growing importance and on this matter at least, progress is being made. In London, the Mayor’s school air quality audit programme assessed 50 primary schools in the capital’s most polluted areas and made recommendations to help schools reduce both emissions and pupils’ exposure to them. While this initiative is clearly a hugely positive step in measuring the scale of the air pollution problem, similar schemes will need to be implemented in cities around the country in order to make an impact nationwide. 

Additionally, the On Air Quality report highlights the need for policy interventions that help reduce children’s exposure to traffic-related air pollutants – not only from local and national governments, but from schools themselves. Currently, the Government supports local projects to improve air quality through DEFRA’s air quality grant programme, but funding reviews are needed to ensure competition for grants aren’t negatively impacting some local authorities.

Stephen Edwards, Interim CEO of Living Streets, who contributed to the report highlighted the part we all have to play to ensure air quality is at the top of the agenda:

“Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental and health challenges facing us all. The need to work together to tackle toxic air has never been more urgent.

“At Living Streets, we work with schools nationwide to reduce congestion and air pollution outside school gates. WOW – our walk to school challenge encourages families to leave the car at home, making the journey to school safer, cleaner and healthier.” 

Of course, the quality of the air we breathe impacts us at every age – and research even indicates that it acts as a catalyst for cognitive decline in older people. But when it comes to the health effects of air pollution, there’s no such thing as a level playing field, with lower-income groups disproportionately affected by poor air quality.

People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are often exposed to much higher levels of air pollutants; a fact that contributes to the UK’s widening health gap and means that low-income communities can expect to live in good health for less time than their wealthier counterparts, in part thanks to poor air quality where they live.

Writing in the On Air Quality report, Professor Sheena Cruickshank recommends the extension of initiatives such as the Manchester Urban Observatory and citizen science projects like Britain Breathing, which map respiratory symptoms by time and location. Not only can place-based community-centric programmes like these provide accurate on-the-ground information that helps bridge the gaps in our understanding of different areas’ uneven exposure to pollutants, but they are a useful tool in engaging and educating the communities affected.

Recent steps to fund such initiatives have been made by UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, but their effectiveness tends to be undermined by their short durations. Given the skepticism of institutional motives among the communities in question and how long it can take to build trust, longer term partnerships backed by specific funding for community engagement are what’s needed to make an impact.

Acknowledging the disproportionate effects of air pollution on certain groups, Labour MP and Chair of the Air Pollution APPG, Geraint Davies, commented: “Poorer and more diverse communities are likely to suffer worse air pollution leading to shorter, less healthy lives.

“We need to create greater awareness of the risks of pollution, to provide cleaner, more affordable public transport, and to encourage active travel and more working from home. It’s time for Government to help to improve our public health and to help avert climate change by putting legally binding WHO air quality limits into law and to set an example for COP26.”

Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, Munira Wilson, added: ‘The Liberal Democrats and I have been calling for the introduction of a Clean Air Act to bring in safer legal limits on air pollution in line with the guidelines of the World Health Organisation. 

“The Government cannot wait a second longer to prevent future deaths and protect our communities.”

Conservative MPs are also highly engaged on the issue and keen to act quickly. Welcoming the report, Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, said: “Improving the nation’s air quality has never been more important than now. Every year, an estimated 64,000 deaths are linked to air pollution, which is disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities.

“Whilst we are rightly taking great strides in tackling climate change by cutting carbon emissions, we must ensure that improving air quality is also a top priority as we rebuild from the pandemic.”

Jo Gideon, PPS to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and member of the Conservative Environment Network reflected on the issues in her own constituency and said: “Air pollution is a major problem in communities across the UK. Respiratory and other health conditions are adversely affected by poor air quality – people are less active, children do not want to play outside, and people do not want to walk or cycle.

“Air pollution is a vicious cycle. This has been a particular issue recently, as emissions from a local landfill site have led to high levels of hydrogen sulphide, causing great public concern, with impacts on mental as well as physical health.

“We must address all the contributory factors to poor air quality, so the revitalisation and promotion of our bus and rail networks is vital, as well as promoting cycling and active travel.”

You can read the University of Manchester’s full report On Air Quality here. 

 

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Rail Industry welcomes new Infrastructure Bank


17 June 2021: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has welcomed the establishment of the UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds, which can support rail infrastructure as the Government looks to generate an economic recovery

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “It’s great to see the new UK Infrastructure Bank set up in Leeds today, which will be vital in supporting infrastructure across the UK, including for rail projects. The railway industry will look forward to working with the Bank, to generate a rail-led recovery post-pandemic, with rail investment creating jobs and economic growth across the UK.

“Interestingly, the Bank’s location in Leeds would mean it would be one of the many beneficiaries – alongside communities across the UK – of HS2 being delivered in full, with the Eastern Leg connecting Birmingham to Leeds. So we continue to urge the Government to publish the Integrated Rail Plan and give the green light to the Eastern Leg, unlocking the full connectivity and economic benefits HS2 provides.”



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Rail industry calls for hydrogen train fleet commitment in upcoming strategy


23 June 2021: Ahead of the forthcoming Government Hydrogen Strategy, the Railway Industry Association – the voice of the UK rail supply community – has published a briefing highlighting the role hydrogen can play on the rail network, and is calling for the Government to commit to train fleet orders.

It sets out how a hydrogen train fleet order could:

  • Kickstart the decarbonisation of the rail network, which is an already low carbon form of transport;
  • Support jobs, investment and economic growth at a critical time for the UK economy; and
  • Back a burgeoning industry, with a fleet order catalysing further investment and providing an industry capability from which the UK could export abroad.

The briefing – which was launched today at a Rail Delivery Group event to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day – forms part of RIA’s Rail Decarbonisation 21 campaign. The campaign is calling for a specific commitment to decarbonise the rail network from Government, through further electrification work and fleet orders of low carbon, self-powered rolling stock, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.

RIA also highlights three examples of UK-developed hydrogen trains, including: Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s HydroFLEX; Alstom and Eversholt Rail’s Breeze; and the consortium delivering Scotland’s Zero Emission Train project, comprising Transport Scotland, Angel Trains, the University of St Andrews and Arcola Energy.  

In May this year, the Government acknowledged the UK will need hydrogen trains and said they will support the deployment on certain lines, as part of its response to the Transport Committee’s Trains Fit for the Future report.

Kate Jennings, Policy Director at the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “The UK rail industry has the capability to be world-leaders in developing hydrogen trains. As we approach COP26, the Government has the opportunity to kickstart the decarbonisation of the railways and showcase our expertise in this area.

“Already a low carbon mode of transport, taking diesel trains off the network through electric, battery and hydrogen trains would help generate jobs and investment, reduce emissions and support a pivotal industry.

“So, today we are calling on the Government to commit to a train fleet order of hydrogen trains as part of its upcoming Hydrogen Strategy. The supply chain stands ready to deliver, and further investment could give the industry a real boost – supporting the ‘build back better’ agenda, skilled jobs, investment and growth – and providing the UK with a competitive advantage from which to export abroad.”



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Grant Shapps Defends Green List Expansion As Industry Bosses Warn It Isn’t Enough


2 min read

Grant Shapps has insisted the latest expansion of the green list is “good news” for the travel industry after the government was accused of not going far enough to help the sector get back on its feet.

Shapps’ Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Thursday it had added 14 countries and territories to the green list of countries where people will not have to quarantine upon returning to the UK.

These include popular holiday destinations Malta; Ibiza, Menorca and Majorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands; and Barbados in the Caribbean islands. The new rules come into effect at 4am on Wednesday, 30 June.

Five countries including Tunisia and the Dominic Republic were added to the red list.

While travel industry bosses welcomed the news, they warned the latest expansion of the green list would not be enough to help the bruised sector recover from the pandemic.

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, described the news as a “constructive step” but warned “today’s announcement fails to go far enough”.

Karen Dee, chief executive of Airport Operators Association, said: “Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic”.

Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, defended the announcement on Friday morning, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “it’s all based on scientific evidence”.

Asked specifically why the United States and popular Greek islands hadn’t been added to the green list, Shapps said: “Often the situation with small islands – I don’t know about the particular ones you’re mentioning – you find there isn’t a genomic sequencing ability.

“So, in other words they are unable to take it to the level of knowing what variant or whether a variant of concern might be arising.

“The US picture is mixed, of course”.

He added: “For the travel industry, who you rightly say have suffered at right of the frontline of this virus, the most important thing is to help them get flying again and that’s why this review yesterday was good news.”

Shapps said the government was planning to further open up international travel by allowing people who have received both coronavirus jabs to treat countries on the amber list, which attract the need to quarantine, as being on the green list.

He would reveal further details of the plan next month once it had figured out how it would work for unvaccinated children, adults who cannot receive the vaccine, and travellers from abroad who do not have electronic vaccine certification.

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Railway industry welcomes Public Accounts Committee support for rail decarbonisation


The Public Accounts Committee has published its report on the “Overview of the English rail system”. In the report, the Committee highlights a “disappointing lack of progress in agreeing a specific and funded plan for rail electrification”, which it says will pose risks to achieving the Government’s Net Zero targets.

It also points to a “’feast or famine’ approach” in electrification projects “which has directly caused boom and bust problems in the supply chain for the SMEs involved in the delivery of these projects and uncertainty for procurement of rolling stock.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), has responded: “It is positive to see the Public Accounts Committee making the case for a consistent programme of electrification work. Alongside battery and hydrogen train fleet orders, electrification is essential if we are to meet the Government’s Net Zero decarbonisation goals. As the Committee highlights, delivering a rolling programme of work, without the ‘boom and bust’ investment profiles we’ve seen in the past, is a cost-effective way to electrify the UK’s intensively used rail lines. This certainty will also help to retain key skills and enable innovation, supporting green jobs and economic growth at this crucial time.

“We look forward to working with the Government to build on these recommendations, and to deliver on the decarbonisation of the rail network ahead of COP26 at good value for the taxpayer, as our Rail Decarbonisation 21 campaign calls for.”



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Grant Shapps Confirms Fully-Vaccinated Can Skip Quarantine When Visiting Amber List Countries From 19 July


Grant Shapps confirmed that holidays to amber list countries were also allowed (Parliamentlive.tv)

4 min read

Grant Shapps has announced that travellers who have had both vaccine doses can skip quarantine requirements when returning from countries on the amber list.

The new rules — which come into effect at 4am 19 July — only apply to those arriving in England who have had their jabs as part of the UK’s vaccine programme.

Arrivals would also be exempt from taking a PCR test on the 8th day following their return to the country, but would still be required to take tests prior to and two days after their return in line with the rules for green list countries. 

And under-18s arriving in the UK will be able to skip quarantine requirements in line with full-vaccinated adults, Shapps added.

People taking part in UK-based vaccine trials are also exempt, and the government says it hopes to open up quarantine-free travel to people vaccinated in the US and EU later this summer.

The guidance discouraging travel to amber list countries is set to be lifted later this month, meaning people are welcome to travel for “leisure, bisiness and to see family”.

“As one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, we must use these advantages to restore many of the freedoms that have been necessarily lost over recent months,” he told MPs.

Shapps continued: “Thanks to this government’s incredible success with the vaccine programme, people in England will be able to travel more easily, visit their family and friends who they’ve not seen for such a long time, and also get business moving again, kickstarting our economy while keeping the UK safe and supporting a wide range of jobs and industries in the process.”

Under the government’s traffic light system for travel, anyone arriving in the UK from amber countries must currently quarantine for 10 days and pay for Covid testing at their own expense.

The vast majority of countries are in this category, while around 30 destinations are on the countries green list, and 10 are on the red list. 

Arrivals from green list areas only need to quarantine if their mandatory Covid-19 test after their return is positive. 

Travel to red list countries — which includes India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa — is banned “except in the most extreme of circumstances”. Anyone returning from these places must quarantine in a government-approved quarantine hotel, which costs £1,750 for per adult.

Shapps said the changes on 19 July would bring amber list countries in line with green list countries, but warned that the former “could still turn red, necessitating a change in behaviour.”

Passengers arriving from amber list countries will be able to prove their vaccination status using the Covid pass built into the NHS app, or by obtaining an “accessible letter” if they do not have a smart phone.

But they will still be required to pay for testing at either end of their trip, which Labour’s shadow transport secretary would “turn away would-be travellers”.

“The Government could stop the rip off we see from private testing companies, using fair capacity in the NHS testing sites, supported by an updated NHS app,” Jim McMahon said. 

“We know testing is a critical element of preventing the spread of Covid, but will he take forward these suggestions and finally make meaningful progress.”

But Shapps responded that tests were tests “as inexpensive as a tenner” and that there are “quite a number of tests available now for much lower prices than were previously stated”. 

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Double-Jabbed Brits Living Abroad Can Return To UK Without Quarantine In “Coming Weeks”


Grant Shapps said the government is working to allow people fully jabbed in other countries to skip quarantine in the UK (Alamy)

4 min read

The government is “actively working” on plans to accept proof of vaccination from travellers arriving in the UK who have received their jabs in another country.

It opens the door for British emigrants who have had their two doses abroad being able to return to the UK from ‘amber list’ nations without having to self-isolate for 10 days.

The comments from transport secretary Grant Shapps come after he announced on Thursday people who were fully vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK would no longer have to quarantine at home when they arrive back from amber countries from 19 July.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, he said he expected to be able to make an announcement “in the next couple of weeks” on extending the quarantine exemption to people who receive a World Health Organisation-approved vaccine in other countries.

“The next thing is to be able to recognise apps from other countries or certification from other countries,” he said.

“It is easier done from some places, like the EU where they have a digital app coming along, than it is in the United States where I think they have 50 different systems, one for each state.”

Shapps also said the “sensitivity” of the NHS Covid app is being kept under constant review after hundreds of thousands of people are being told to self-isolate every week after coming into close contact with a positive coronavirus case.

There has been criticism it is creating a new version of lockdown, as millions are expected to be ‘pinged’ by the app in the coming weeks as the delta variant continues to spread, with the health secretary Sajid Javid suggesting we could be at 100,000 new infections per day later this summer.

But the transport secretary said it was important it remained a “useful tool” in the fight against the disease, adding: “As the overall nationwide levels for things like the amount of social distancing and other rules are looked at so we will look at the way that app performs with regard to the new standards being in place.

“We keep a very close eye on those things. I did speak to the health secretary about it yesterday. He is very aware of this and we will keep it under constant review because we want the app to be a useful tool in our armoury.

“We will keep the sensitivity of it under review with the new guidelines that come in on July 19.”

The most recent figures for the app, for the seven days to 30 June, show 356,036 people were sent alerts telling them to self-isolate, up from 219,391 the previous week, with stats from the NHS revealing it was less than 10,000 a month prior.

It has led to suggestion Brits are now deleting the app or switching off its contact tracing facility to prevent being forced to stay at home, but Shapps denied this was happening.

“That’s not actually the evidence – we are still seeing lots of people downloading the app,” he told Sky News.

“The app will remain an important part of our armoury. We encourage people to carry on using it.”

There are suggestions it could be altered to allow for a test-to-release system, using spare capacity in the government’s testing laboratories.

A pilot scheme in Liverpool, which allowed those people identified as close contacts of an infection to take daily tests rather than self-isolating, managed to protect 3,200 key worker staff days from quarantine.

But a leading academic has warned the wholesale lifting of the remaining Covid restrictions risks NHS Test and Trace being overwhelmed.

Jon Deeks, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, told the Guardian at least 660,000 gold-standard PCR tests are likely to be needed each day to record the 100,000 daily infections predicted by Javid.

This is not only higher than the current theoretical capacity for PCR tests, but also 50% more than the highest daily figure achieved during the pandemic.

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Government has 10 Days to avoid a ‘Summer of Uncertainty’ for the railway industry


12 July 2021: With only ten days left before Parliament goes into recess, the Railway Industry Association – the voice of the UK rail supply community – is urging the Government to publish a number of rail investment strategies, in order to avoid a ‘Summer of Uncertainty’ for rail businesses.

With the House of Commons rising for the Summer recess on 22 July 2021, the Government has three key strategies that are vital to providing certainty for rail businesses:

  • The Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, a list of upcoming rail upgrades which has not been updated in more than a year;
  • The Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and North, providing an update on Government’s plans for projects like HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub; and
  • The Transport Decarbonisation Plan, setting out how the Government plans to achieve a Net Zero transport sector by 2050.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “The rail industry greatly appreciates the support the Government has given over the past 18 months, allowing our railways to move key workers and resources around the UK, and support the economy, during the pandemic.

“However, as we emerge from pandemic restrictions, rail businesses currently have little visibility of the Government’s investment plans, impacting their ability to plan and invest in skills and capability for the future. The Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline – a list of upcoming rail upgrades, which the Government promised to update annually – has not been published for more than 630 days. Similarly, we are yet to see the Integrated Rail Plan or the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, both of which are vital in setting out Government’s priorities for rail projects across the UK.

“With only 10 days until Parliament rises for Summer recess, RIA and our members urge the Government to avoid creating a ‘Summer of Uncertainty’ for rail businesses and to publish these long-awaited strategies. By doing so, the sector will be much better prepared to support the economic recovery from Coronavirus, and boost green jobs, investment and economic growth across the country.”



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