Welcome to our monthly Transport Update with all the key legal developments you need to know about, including the Williams-Shapps Plan legislation consultation, a new inquiry into autonomous vehicles, the Future of Freight Strategy and a new Space Sustainability Plan.

Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving vehicles The Transport Select Committee has launched a call for evidence as part of an inquiry into development and deployment of self-driving vehicles for use on the roads (also known as connected and autonomous vehicles). Call for Evidence ends: 22 August 2022.

Remote Driving: Issues paper The Law Commission of England and Wales has published a consultation seeking views on the need and options for regulating remote driving on public roads. The Commission paper examines remote driving where the driver does not have full line of sight and may be in a remote operations centre many miles from the vehicle and seeks to highlight uncertainties and risks in the way current legislation applies to remote driving. Consultation ends: 2 September 2022.

Aviation

Government helps prevent last-minute summer flight cancellations with "amnesty" on airport slots rule The Government has laid regulations before Parliament that aim to help airlines prevent last-minute flight cancellations during the summer peak. The regulations will allow a one-off “amnesty” on airport slots rules, enabling airlines to plan ahead and deliver a realistic summer schedule that minimises disruption at the airports. This is being provided as an exceptional measure while industry makes progress in recruiting necessary staff.

Electric Vehicles

Plug-in grant for cars set to end The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles have announced that the plug-in car grant scheme is set to be closed to new orders, with funding instead being spent on expanding the public chargepoint network as well as electric taxis, vans, trucks, motorcycles and wheelchair accessible vehicles. In announcing the close, the Government highlighted that successive reductions in the size of the grant, and the number of models it covers, have had little effect on rapidly accelerating sales or on the continuously growing range of models being manufactured.

Freight

Future of Freight: a long-term plan The Department for Transport has launched the first-ever cross-modal and cross-government plan for the UK freight transport sector. Developed in partnership with industry, this plan sets out the Government’s long-term vision for the UK freight sector including identifying the main challenges, objectives and actions that need to be taken in the following 5 priority areas: National Freight Network (NFN); enabling the transition to net zero; planning; people and skills; and data and technology. See our blog on this for the Rail Freight Group here.

Consultation on the HGV levy The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on proposals to introduce a replacement HGV levy in which carbon dioxide emissions, estimated according to the weight of the vehicle, are taken into account. The proposals will align the suspended HGV levy with the environmental performance of the vehicle, using the weight of the HGV to approximate the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the vehicle and ensure that the levy liability is as closely aligned as possible to when a foreign vehicle is used on a major road. Consultation ends: 18 July 2022.

Infrastructure

Union Connectivity Review update: Written statement to Parliament The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has published a written statement to Parliament in response to recommendations made by Sir Peter Hendy in the Union Connectivity Review. In the statement the Transport Secretary notes that the Department for Transport aims to publish the UK Government’s response to the review later this year.

Rail Network

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail: A Consultation on Legislation to Implement Rail Transformation The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation seeking views on primary legislative changes required to effect rail reform as set out in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. The consultation covers the core functions and duties of Great British Railways; a new governance framework; and reform of wider industry structures and processes. DfT are also seeking evidence of the risks and potential implications of the policies proposed to inform the impact assessments. Consultation ends: 4 August 2022. To read our initial reactions to this plan, please click here.

Whole Industry Strategic Plan Call for Evidence Response Report The Great British Railways Transition Team has summarised the evidence gathered in response to its call for evidence on the Whole Industry Strategic Plan. Amongst the key issues raised in the consultation were decarbonisation, accessibility, the need for a strong customer service ethos and financial sustainability, along with the importance of integrating with other transport. See our article on the WISP for background.

Removing the Golborne link from the HS2 Bill On 6 June 2022 the DfT announced that the Government intends to amend the HS2 Phase 2b Bill to remove the Golborne Link (a proposed 13 mile connection that would branch off the main HS2 line towards Manchester near Knutsford and rejoin the West Coast Main Line near Golborne, just south of Wigan). This removal was recommended in the Union Connectivity Review. The Government is looking at alternatives within the £96 billion funding envelope for the Integrated Rail Plan.

£1bn technology investment in railway network The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that £1 billion of government funding will be used to replace outdated Victorian infrastructure with cutting edge digital signalling technology on the East Coast Main Line. The funding will remove outdated lineside signalling and replace it with the European train control system (ETCS), which brings signalling into train drivers’ cabs and provides them with real-time, continuous information throughout their journey. The technology will be rolled out across the entire southern section of the line – from London’s King’s Cross to Stoke Tunnels, just south of Grantham.

Shipping

Maritime recovery route map The Department for Transport has published a maritime recovery route map, outlining how government and the maritime sector will work together to support the sector’s recovery from the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and boost the implementation of Maritime 2050.

Consultation outcome: Consultation report on the draft Merchant Shipping (Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments) Regulations 2021 The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has published an update to the outcome report on its consultation on the draft Merchant Shipping (Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments) Regulations 2021. The updated regulations aim to implement the international convention for the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments, and prevent the spread of invasive non-native species which are carried within ballast water, into domestic law. The Government plans are currently seeking to implement the regulations in summer 2022.

Space

Government announces package of new measures to drive space sustainability The Science Minister has launched a new Plan for Space Sustainability detailing a range of measures designed to demonstrate the UK’s commitment, ambition and drive to improve the UK’s sustainable use of space. The minister announced that the Government will work with industry to establish a new Space Sustainability Standard, which will aim to incentivise companies to adopt best practice in space sustainability and officially recognise those who take steps to minimise their footprint on the Earth’s orbit.

Spaceflight legislation and guidance The UK Space Agency has published guidance on the legislation and insurance requirements and liabilities for UK spaceflight under the Outer Space Act 1986 and the Space Industry Act 2018.