Last week marked the culmination of twelve months of determined work to ensure that the Rail Minister understands the importance of our rail services to the local economy and the quality of life of local residents.
Later this year the Government will award a franchise to train operators to provide rail services for the next 15 years. As our rail services concern all parts of the south west, I have been working with colleagues of all political parties to make sure that we get the best possible deal for Cornish rail customers and secured and led a Parliamentary debate on this issue just before Christmas.
Further to these efforts I was pleased that last week the Minister visited Truro, Falmouth and Penryn rail stations and travelled up and down our beautiful Maritime Line.
The Government is making the largest investment in railways in living memory and I am determined that new franchise builds on these improvements, ensuring that Cornwall’s rail services do not miss out. Some progress has already been made- last year I was pleased to help secure additional carriages for the popular Maritime Line.
During the Minister’s visit last week I made the case for further improvements to her, improvements that include a daily express service to London that could see journey times cut to less than four hours to enable business people and other travellers to get to London and back in the same day. I am pleased by the considerable support that has been expressed for the creation of such a service, in addition to existing services.
Truro station car park desperately needs a new surface and lighting and I pushed for this too, along with the need to retain our cherished sleeper services.
The Minister listened with interest to these arguments and was able to confirm that the sleeper service would be part of the new 15 franchise.
Further good news for Cornwall’s transport is that last week Cornwall Council secured significant investment from the Government to improve bus services from Truro to towns in South East Cornwall, improvements that will see improved cycle lanes and car parking to train and bus connections, aimed at making public transport a real alternative to the car for more people.
While these important improvements are designed and delivered, many readers will be reliant upon road transport to get around the county and get goods to market. Despite the dreadful weather the huge support for the Royal Cornwall Show underlines the importance of food and drink manufacturing to the Cornish economy. Since being elected I have made common cause with colleagues around the country who also represent remote and rural constituencies who pay much higher than the average road fuel bills. I referred this problem to the OFT to investigate. Last week their report concluded that there was a problem and a range of solutions. I will be rigorously perusing this with the various parts of government and the OFT. Fair fuel prices for Cornwall will continue to be a top priority.