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Will £146 million "major package of rail improvements" help Cornwall?
1:00am Thursday 3rd July 2014 in News
Cornwall will benefit from a "multi-million pound package of rail improvements" that will lift the local economy, create new jobs and provide faster train journeys, the Prime Minister has claimed.
The £146.6m deal has "tourism at its core", with passengers travelling by sleeper train into the county able to start their holiday "relaxing in newly refurbished carriages".
The deal will ensure:
* The interior of the Night Riviera Sleeper trains, which run between Penzance and London - one of only two sleeper services in the UK - will be completely overhauled;
* The Long Rock train maintenance site at Penzance will be expanded to maintain Cornwall’s sleeper trains, safeguarding jobs and creating new training opportunities.
* A major programme of signalling improvements will start five years earlier than planned, providing faster journeys between Penzance and Totnes and paving the way for the potential introduction of half-hourly services on the Cornish mainline.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Ensuring that we have first class infrastructure across Britain is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to back business, create jobs and provide a brighter future for hardworking people. This investment, which will boost the local economy and improve connectivity, is great news for Cornwall, the South West and beyond.”
The package includes £9m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT), £29.6m secured through Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), £103.5m from Network Rail and £4.5m from train operator First Great Western.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Rail travel in Cornwall is growing rapidly, and investing in the rail network here is crucial to securing long-term economic growth. These improvements will safeguard and create jobs, improve services for millions of passengers and provide better access to the South West of England. This is great news for Cornwall and for the wider economy as a whole.”
Nearly seven million passengers use the rail network in Cornwall every year, with passenger numbers growing twice as fast as the national average.
Today’s funding comes off the back of real investment in the region. The Government has given local authorities in the South West more than £900m to spend on local transport during this parliament, with £130m being spent on improving the region’s roads this year, including the A303 and A30.
Bert Biscoe, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for transportation, said: “This announcement is great news for Cornwall. We have been working closely with the LEP and First Great Western to improve our rail services and are delighted that the Government is supporting our plans. This is a real opportunity to develop Cornwall’s public transport network. Enhancing the main line signalling in Cornwall is just as important as dualling the A30 and building the Tamar Bridge in keeping Cornwall connected.”
Chris Pomfret, chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “Transport connectivity is always one of the first issues identified by the business community as a barrier to Cornwall’s economic growth. This investment makes a major step forward in addressing this issue through an enhanced sleeper service and potentially a more regular and resilient link to London and the rest of the country.
“Perhaps, just as importantly, is that this is a real demonstration of a council and LEP and the two relevant rail bodies and the Department for Transport working together to produce a solution that benefits all parties, but most particularly, the people of Cornwall.”
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s Western route managing director, said: “The South West has a vibrant economy which is experiencing staggering growth in demand for rail travel. That can only be supported by putting in the best possible connections to the rest of the country. Network Rail is proud to be playing a part in that success story."
Mark Hopwood, First Great Western managing director, said: “At First Great Western we have a great track record of working with local authority partners and the wider rail industry to deliver significant improvements of real economic value for the communities we serve.
“This package enhances the improvements already planned to the Night Riviera sleeper to a whole new level, providing top class accommodation and introducing a brasserie-style bar area.”