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Secretary of State welcomes Cornwall's ambitious transport plans
Cornwall's ambitions for improving transport links to better connect communities and support the economy took centre stage today during a visit from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP.
The Secretary of State was given an update on how Cornwall’s devolution deal and the four year programme of investment for transport in Cornwall is already delivering improvements for passengers, transforming rail services on the mainline, helping deliver a new fully integrated public transport system with seamless ticketing and upgrades to key strategic roads.
He also visited Cornwall Airport Newquay, the fastest growing UK airport outside of London, to see first-hand the benefits Heathrow expansion could bring. The Government has confirmed that it is prepared to intervene to reserve slots at Heathrow for flights to airports in nations and regions around the UK if expansion goes ahead. Public Service Obligations (PSOs) would be put in place to protect routes if required, which would also be exempt from Air Passenger Duty.
The news follows confirmation that the Government wants about 15% of the new capacity at an expanded Heathrow to be used for domestic flights. Cornwall could be one of the locations that benefits from the additional flights, which would offer passengers greater connectivity to domestic and overseas destinations.
Demonstrating the positive partnerships which have developed as a result of the Council making the case for improved transport links, the Secretary of State was met by representatives from Cornwall Council, GWR, First Kernow, Network Rail, Highways England, Cornwall Airport Newquay, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, as well as local MPs.
During the visit, the Transport Secretary
- Was briefed by Cornwall Council on progress towards delivering Cornwall’s One Public Transport System - a fully integrated public transport system across rail, bus and ferry services – providing one public transport system with common ticketing and joined up timetables. This is the first for a rural authority in the UK;
- Saw the enhancements to the Night Riviera Sleeper service, including work to the new sleeper lounges at Penzance and Truro, being delivered in partnership with GWR who are upgrading the sleeper service and are soon to deliver new Intercity Express Trains to Cornwall;
- Was given an update on the rail mainline signalling project - Network Rail's extensive upgrade throughout Cornwall which will enable a half hourly Penzance to Plymouth service from later this year, and travelled on the upgraded GWR Castle Class train, which will provide the half hourly train link;
- Learned how the Park and Ride at Tregurra Park, launched 10 years ago in Truro, has made a big difference to the city centre, taking vehicles out of the city centre's streets on weekdays;
- Saw first-hand the significant investment in Cornwall’s buses made in partnership with First Kernow;
- Listened to local leaders who made the case for further funding for the A38;
- Formally opened the enhanced rail maintenance depot at Long Rock, which will maintain the upgraded sleeper fleet; and
- Saw the construction project at St Erth Railway Station, which includes a new 550 space car park as well as nearby highway junction improvements.
Much of the funding for these projects has come from Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Local Growth Fund, with additional funding from the ERDF, Cornwall Council's Local Transport Plan, as well as GWR, Network Rail and First Kernow.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Newquay is an example of one of our thriving regional aviation hubs which Heathrow expansion would support by boosting economic growth, increasing the number of flights for passengers and bolstering regional connectivity.
“Significant progress is also being made towards a fully integrated transport system here in Cornwall which will provide faster and more reliable journeys, enabling more passengers to travel than ever before.
“We have been absolutely clear that ongoing investment in the South West’s transport infrastructure is the key to unlocking the region’s economy, jobs and prosperity.”
Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Transport Geoff Brown said: “As a Council, we are proud of the transport improvements that have been delivered in the last four years and there is more to come. We have big ambitions and a plan for transport in Cornwall, increasing connectivity for our residents, for businesses and the millions of visitors who visit each year. We are committed to working with our partners to improve Cornwall’s public transport network and provide regular reliable services to help people and businesses get around.
“Our One Public Transport System for Cornwall is a key part of this, providing, from next year, a fully integrated and sustainable public transport network and delivering SMART ticketing for bus, rail and ferry. These improvements will help us to create a transport network that supports our local economy.”
GWR Customer Service and Transformation Director Richard Rowland said: “We are delighted to welcome the Secretary of State to officially open the upgraded depot here at Long Rock. This work marks a significant step forward in our joint plans to improve transport here in Cornwall, supporting the communities we serve and the local economy.
“Working in partnership with Network Rail and local and national government, we have been able to pool resources and knowledge – which will deliver significant benefits for GWR passengers, bringing more trains, more seats, more frequent services and quicker journeys.”
Al Titterington, Managing Director of Cornwall Airport Newquay, said: “I welcome the Secretary of State and the government commitment to a third runway at Heathrow but also the safeguarding of slots to connect regions like Cornwall to an expanded Heathrow. It is critical that access to slots is safeguarded in perpetuity as it allows not only access to global markets but facilitates investment decisions in to the region knowing that connectivity is assured. Our detailed analysis identifies up to 30% growth on the existing London route if that service operates to Heathrow, which will make Cornwall truly accessible to the global economy.”
Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “Strong public transport is vital to a growing economy which is why to date we have invested more than £33 million in bus and train services from Cornwall’s Local Growth Fund allocation. The combination of increased capacity, new infrastructure and a fully integrated bus and rail system is creating a transport network fit for the 21st century. We are delighted to be able to show the Secretary of State how Cornwall is investing for growth.”