Plymouth’s leader and deputy leader have welcomed today’s strategic rail blueprint for the South West Peninsula and said it should be used a rallying call for rail investment to drive economic growth in the South West.
Council leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Ian Bowyer said: “An incredible amount of work has been carried out to break down complex issues across our network into a plan for what we need and by when.
“The last major investment in the Paddington Penzance line was 1976 – the summer of the drought! The UK average spend on rail is £97. Here in the South West it is £35.
“Regardless of who has been in power, the region has been at the bottom of the investment list for too long. This has led to our infrastructure failing and is not good enough. We must close the gap.”
The 20 year plan is based on the 3 point plan of a resilient and reliable railway, faster journey times and better connectivity and increased capacity and comfort.
The immediate priorities to 2019 are to:
• Invest £284m in resilience, including commencing the securing of the main rail line through Dawlish and Teignmouth
• Completion of committed flood relief schemes
• Introduce trains capable of operating along the seawall in all weathers
• Invest £2.5m in GRIP 3 options for the diversionary route East of Exeter
• Invest £22m in GRIP 3 options for reducing journey times
• Increase frequency to two direct trains
Deputy leader of the Council Councillor Patrick Nicholson, who was at the House of Commons for the launch said: “We are heading in the right direction. Last week we heard that the local MP’s working with the Peninsula Rail Taskforce had secured an extra £10 million to enable the Dawlish resilience studies and options appraisals to continue.
“We are being proactive and creating this 20 year plan that will help shape the direction of investment in the South West peninsula’s rail network and keep up the pressure on the Government to deliver on earlier promises that were made.
“The taskforce have carried a thorough job of identifying what the measures needed and made the summary straight forward so that all our businesses, residents and partners can see clearly what our goals are and help us campaign for them.”
In relation to Plymouth the task force is asking for the following:
• £270m before 2019 for Network Rail to commence works on making the railway resilient at Dawlish, to improve reliability of the trains.
• Improved resilience and capacity on the diversionary route from Exeter to Castle Cary via Yeovil to allow reliable services when the mainline via Taunton is closed
• Trains capable of operating past Dawlish in all conditions, improving service reliability
• 6 minute improvement in London train times to Plymouth from Dec 2018 using new trains
• 2 direct trains an hour to London from Plymouth with 10 minute reduction in journey times on at least 1 train an hour
• Infrastructure improvements between 2019 and 2029 reducing journey times by a further 14 minutes
• Large long term infrastructure improvements offer the opportunity to reduce journey times by a further 19 minutes
Capacity and Comfort
• Reliable and usable wi-fi and mobile communication on all trains
• Improved facilities on train that allows business to be productive and leisure travel to be improved through a mobile office concept and media streaming services
• Completion of the design work to allow the rail route to Tavistock to move to delivery phase with a service in operation by 2024 at the latest.