Transport 'key to post-COVID recovery'

Improving transport links between towns and cities is key to the post-COVID recovery and could save the UK’s ailing high streets, local leaders argued yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of a report by the Centre for Cities think-tank, which found that major city centres such as London, Glasgow and Cardiff lost a year’s worth of revenue due to the pandemic, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he was confident that empowered urban areas would bounce back.

Guildford, Surrey, September 2021

But Mr Burnham urged ministers to devolve further powers to sub-national bodies through the forthcoming levelling up White Paper or risk undermining a recovery.

He said: ‘I see a clear path from where we’re coming from. We just need to be backed. This is the moment to invest in England’s regions.

‘[Local government secretary] Michael Gove gets this perhaps more than most.

'It is not a choice of town or city - it has got to be both and transport has to be the bridge to that recovery.’

Mr Burnham said getting people back onto safe transport networks, and into town and city centres, was critical.

He called for greater investment in transport links between towns and cities, a Transport for London-style system for Greater Manchester, support for buses and additional help for London, which suffered the biggest drop-off in high street revenues.

London deputy mayor Jules Pipe said the capital needed additional support as it strived to bring tourists back to the capital or it risked losing them to international competitors.

The Centre for Cities report revealed that the UK’s biggest cities and high streets were hardest hit by the pandemic while smaller town centres suffered less due to business and staff protection schemes.

Burnley’s city centre lost the fewest weeks of sales during the pandemic followed by Warrington and Huddersfield.

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