Transport secretary presented strategic asks …and a map!

Council leader Tudor Evans presented Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin with a map to replace the one he saw on the minister’s wall which entirely missed off Plymouth, South Devon and most of Cornwall.

The minister was in Plymouth to talk about strategic transport issues with the city, its MPs, business representatives and the Peninsula Taskforce.

Councillor Evans said: “The fact that the minister’s office map didn’t even have much of the region on it all shows how much our work is cut out. But we are pleased to see the minister here and hopefully he will be helping us to turn the tide of Westminster indifference and underinvestment.”

Business representatives as well as key regional politicians were invited to the meeting at the university. Issues they discussed included investment for the region’s rail network, putting Plymouth on the Strategic National Corridor, the Highways Agency and roadworks on the A38 and long term plans for the A303

The Transport Secretary was given a dossier containing a summary of the Peninsula Rail Task Force 3-Point Plan for a long overdue major decisive investment in rail by Government. It calls for a service that is:

• Resilient and reliable

• With faster journey times and better connectivity

• And sufficient capacity and comfort

For Plymouth this would mean:

Resilient and reliable

  • Determine second inland route, avoiding the Dawlish coastal route, once Network Rail studies are complete, designed for 125mph and future proofed for electrification for construction to start no later than 2021.
  • An hourly local main line service between Penzance and Plymouth with options to extend to Exeter

With faster journey times and better connectivity

  • Lift line speed restrictions along the route west of Reading to increase average speeds.
  • Electrification of the Cross Country and Great Western lines from Birmingham to Penzance and Newbury to Taunton respectively from 2019 to 2024

And sufficient capacity and comfort

  • Sufficient rolling stock and track capacity to create more services to deliver the Far South West’s growth agenda.
  • Prioritise at the earliest opportunity and no later than 2019, the cascade or authorise the construction of new long-distance diesel express train sets to replace HSTs.

The Transport minister was also given of a more detailed report into the economic case for electrification of the South West Peninsula Main Lines

Councillor Evans added: “This region is the only region not to have plans for electrification – it is not on any plan for investment. We cannot afford to remain the forgotten corner in terms of rail investment. Government’s spend per head on transport in the Peninsula is £151 less than the UK average and it’s falling.”

Peter Hartland, Chief Executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce said: “Transport connectivity is a long standing issue for Plymouth and the South West and the Chamber has been lobbying hard to realise significant strategic investment in our transport infrastructure. Today’s meeting with the Secretary of State for transport, gave us the ideal opportunity to put forward the pressing needs and views of Plymouth businesses, in determining urgent transport investments.

“With large sums being invested in Crossrail and HS2 it’s high time that the South West saw significant timely investment, particularly in terms of rail infrastructure, to bring our Victorian railway into the 21st Century. For our economy to grow we need to secure a resilient transport network for both road and rail, with faster train travel to the capital and accessible routes in and out of the region. The Chamber will continue to press the Government to make good on the promises made in the wake of the collapse of the Dawlish line and will watch closely what comes out of the Transport Minister’s visit to the South West today.”

Chair of the Plymouth Federation of Small Businesses Lesley Shorrocks, added: “The opportunity to be at the meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport was important because we need to show strong all-sector support for Plymouth’s call for greater road and rail resilience and connectivity.

“In addition, many businesses in the city are also concerned about the Highways Agency’s proposed, lengthy works on the A38, which could effectively cut Plymouth off from the rest of the country and also make moving around the immediate locality incredibly difficult for us to do business efficiently.”