Politicians are urging the Government to invest in the railway in the South West.
A letter signed by eight West Country MPs was sent to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin on February 11. It stated: “We need urgent Government investment in our region’s rail infrastructure and services.”
The letter highlighted a promise made last year that Network Rail would draw up detailed plans setting out the work required to reduce the likelihood of flooding causing damage. The letter says it would have cost “a reasonable £31.3 million”.
This promise has not materialised, the MPs claim. They added that securing this money was an “urgent priority, and a necessary first step in a campaign to deliver the transport infrastructure and services vital to the Peninsula future economic security”.
On a visit to the devastated Dawlish site on February 7, McLoughlin said: “As well as tackling the current problems, I have said that I want to look at the longer-term resilience of the South West’s rail links, and I have commissioned a report to do just that.”
Three days later Prime Minister David Cameron visited Plymouth, and pledged a study into all the options to create an additional, fast, 21st century, resilient route, including an inland route behind Dawlish. Cameron pledged to see if the repairs at Dawlish could be sped up, and to press McLoughlin for an immediate review of Plymouth’s inclusion on the strategic transport network corridor.
Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Tracey Lee said: “Now is the time for bold action. I explained that a car journey to Exeter takes 40 minutes, yet the trains, when they operate, take an hour - and any route via Okehampton would take much longer. A fast, resilient rail service fit for the 21st century needs to address this once and for all.”
Dr Adam Marshall, executive director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is high time that the resilience of our transport networks moved higher up the Westminster agenda. No area should have to suffer being cut off from the rest of the country because governments fail to fix obvious black spots on our key transport corridors.”
Responding to Exeter Central MP Ben Bradshaw’s question about the floods, during PM’s question time on February 5, Cameron said: “Where extra investment and protections are needed, they must be put in place.”
- This news article was published in RAIL 742 on 19 February 2014