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The UK has struck a deal with the Republic of Ireland and France to keep vital freight routes open for goods such as food and medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The freight and passenger support package covers several vital trade routes used by exporters and importers across a wide range of product lines.

Other routes supported include:

  • 7 routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 7 routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • the Penzance-Scilly ferry
  • 26 routes between Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including Eurotunnel

The deal involves the three countries committing support for freight operators that have been “under rising financial pressure due to falling demand,” transport secretary Grant Shapps told the daily 10 Downing Street press conference on Friday, 24 April.

“Since many of them bring in crucial goods such as medicines, raw materials and chemicals to purify water, it is important to guarantee the continuation of these services,” Shapps said.

British ferries, hit by plummeting passenger numbers, are to be given a £27m bailout to keep food and medicine supplies flowing across 31 routes between Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe.

The deal involves supporting links by sea and air between the three nations, in particular for the ferry route between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Essential supplies are continuing to flow well, but operators are facing challenges as fewer people travelling means less capacity to move goods,” Shapps said.

Other transport news:

  • The UK government is to test using drones to deliver medical supplies and PPE equipment, with a hospital on the Isle of Wight the first destination.
  • Southampton and Portsmouth were awarded £28m to develop a transport zone before the coronavirus crisis, including money for testing drones as a transport method. Transport minister Grant Shapps said (on Friday, 24 April) he was bringing forward this testing to carry medical supplies
  • The transport minister also signalled that the UK would introduce compulsory screening at airports for the virus.
  • Airlines UK, a body representing airlines based in Britain, has asked the transport minister for a six-month suspension in air passenger duty. It also asked for a waiver of air traffic control and related charges through the rest of 2020, as well as relief from EU flight compensation rules.