The UK government is investing £35m in protecting vital freight routes in and around the UK as demand drops due to Covid-19.
The government has signed agreements with six operators to ensure there is enough freight capacity to prevent disruption to the flow of goods.
P&O Ferries, Eurotunnel, DFDS, Seatruck, Brittany Ferries and Stena Line will be operating the routes, which will be designated as “Public Service Obligation routes”, for a period of up to nine weeks, the government said.
The move is designed to protect 16 routes covering the Channel, the Short Strait, the North Sea and routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which were previously at risk of closure due to a drop in demand as a result of coronavirus.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “From the very beginning of the outbreak we have committed to do whatever it takes to minimise the disruption caused by Covid-19.
“By taking this action, we have helped protect the movement of goods and services.”
Last month, the government unveiled a £17m package to ensure the continued supply of critical goods to Northern Ireland.
Shapps said the funding would help ferry operators protect supply chains and maintain the flow of critical goods across the Irish Sea.
“We’re also taking action to secure services around the UK including £10.5m for links to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles allowing critical freight to continue to support families in every part of our country,” he said.
Shapps revealed the UK was working with Ireland and France to keep freight routes open throughout the crisis.
The investment comes as ferry operator P&O accused the government of being too slow to respond to calls for financial support for ferry services.
Maersk, the largest container ship company in the world, has also warned freight volumes could drop by 25% in the second quarter of 2020 due to coronavirus.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.