Vital ferry routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been safeguarded, thanks to a multi-million-pound government scheme to help ensure critical freight can continue to move into and across the union.
The package, worth up to £17 million, is being funded by the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive and will be made available to operators so that they can continue running freight services on 5 sea routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today (24 April 2020) that further funding, worth tens of millions of pounds, will also be made available to support more routes across the UK, subject to discussions with operators.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
Essential supplies are continuing to flow well, but operators are facing challenges as fewer people travelling means less capacity to move goods.
Today’s action will help ensure we have the freight capacity we need across the UK. This funding will help ferry operators protect our supply chain and maintain the flow of critical goods across the Irish Sea and throughout the union.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, said:
This is excellent news for Northern Ireland and the connectivity of the entire United Kingdom.
Although this coronavirus outbreak has reduced travel demand, this support package from the UK government and Northern Ireland Executive will ensure that essential ferry routes are kept open and vital transport links across the entire UK are safeguarded – guaranteeing the continued supply of critical goods, such as food and medical supplies.
I am pleased that a further support package is also being developed to help ensure crucial air passenger services to and from London, Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport are maintained. And we will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to help deliver that.
The NI Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, added
Keeping our critical routes open across these islands for the supply of foods, goods and medicines is absolutely critical in our fight against COVID-19. This support package will protect our ferry operators and ensure that vital supply chains are maintained.
For a number of weeks I have been engaging with the British Government and I am delighted to secure this package. I have been working closely with operators to keep our essential goods moving at this time and wish to extend my personal thanks for their determination to maintain our critical routes during this difficult time.
Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack, said:
We have been clear that the UK government will do what is necessary to protect our economy during the current Coronavirus pandemic. That includes safeguarding the essential ferry routes between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I know just how vital the busy services in and out of Cairnryan are. It is essential we keep them going for the economies of both Northern Ireland and the south-west of Scotland.
Today the UK, French and Irish governments pledged to work together on temporary measures to ensure COVID-19 does not threaten vital freight routes between the countries.
UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and French Minister of Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, said the nations are united by trade which has thrived through the most difficult of times, and that they will continue to engage closely to help keep freight moving between the nations.
In addition to the funding announced today, the Department for Transport is working closely with the wider transport sector and devolved administrations to monitor the situation on air routes which are vital in helping maintain transport links across the union.
The Secretary of State also confirmed that the department has been working with Northern Ireland Executive to develop a support package which will ensure passenger flights from Belfast and Derry-Londonderry, to Great Britain are maintained during this COVID-19 response period. This will ensure to routes which are vital for those who need to travel remain open.
The department is in discussions with the relevant airlines, airports and the Northern Ireland Executive to finalise this package guaranteeing lifeline air passenger services.