• Government pledges support for freight services to protect flow of goods between the UK, mainland Europe and Northern Ireland

• UK, Ireland and France also agree joint commitment to protecting freight during pandemic

• Light rail systems in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham and Tyne and Wear also set to receive support

• Thousands of volunteers from transport sector are put on standby to support frontline services as new ‘Transport Support Unit (TSU)’ established, alongside hundreds of Government vehicles from the transport network

Vital routes for supplies and people have been protected today through a coronavirus support package to keep the flow of goods and services running smoothly in and out of the UK, and around the country, throughout the pandemic.

A multimillion government support package for essential freight services includes:

• up to £17m for critical routes between Northern Ireland and Great Britain;

• up to £10.5m for lifeline ferry and freight services to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles;

• and further support for critical routes between Britain and the European mainland.

The funding will ensure the ongoing supply of critical goods into the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, with up to 31 routes eligible for support, subject to discussions with operators.

The UK is working closely alongside French and Irish partners and today pledged in a joint statement to “strengthen partnership and share best practices”, to ensure the continued movement of freight across the continent.

The freight and passenger support package covers seven routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland; routes to the Isle of Wight; the Penzance-Scilly ferry; and 26 routes between Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including Eurotunnel.

Alongside the protection for freight routes, the Transport Secretary also committed to fast track the launch of a new trial using drones between the mainland and St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, helping ensure it is equipped to tackle the virus. This follows £28m awarded by the Government earlier this year to Southampton and Portsmouth councils to carry out drone trials of this kind as part of a wider future transport zone trial.