With the lockdown gradually easing and our favourite shops, cafes and restaurants starting to reopen, many of us are now getting out and about across the region again – enjoying our summers and visiting local businesses to give them our support. The latest figures show that new Coronavirus infections in our region remain mercifully low, however this is not a time to become complacent. We must do everything we can to ensure that the results of the hard work we have all put in endure. My team and I have been working very closely with our transport operators, councils and central government to ensure that we all get out and about more, we can do so safely.
Firstly, we all still have to keep up to date with, and follow the latest rules and guidelines. Masks are now compulsory on all forms of public transport, and as of Friday 24 July they will be compulsory in shops and inside bus and railway stations too. I have been speaking with colleagues at First Bus and Great Western Railway, and understand that on the whole most people are wearing their masks. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to those who are following the rules, and ask those who aren’t to be responsible.
My team at the Combined Authority will continue working closely with our transport operators to ensure that services are able to meet demand while also ensuring that social distancing rules are followed.
As bus and train capacity remains limited, I know that many residents are looking for alternatives which do not involve the car. To help make this happen, I want to see more safe routes to travel for those who want to walk and cycle. . I was delighted to agree at the latest Combined Authority committee £13m of new money to support safer active travel. £3m of this is for immediate measures such as pavement widening with another £10m for longer term solutions to support residents who choose to walk or cycle.
This new funding will accelerate my existing plans for improved walking and cycling infrastructure , and will also enable the development of new schemes across the West of England. As we recover from the crisis and renew our region, it is right that we’re laying the foundations for cleaner, more sustainable transport in the future.
Looking at where we are now, compared to at the beginning of the pandemic, we have come so far. It is reassuring that infection rates remain low, the region is reopening and the economy is beginning to recover. There is however, still a long way to go. We absolutely must ensure that as we begin to travel and shop again, we all play our part to prevent any possible second wave; maintaining social distancing, wearing our masks and choosing the safest option of travel. As I said in the early days of lockdown, we are at our best as a region when we all work together and support each other. If we continue doing this, we will get there.