Connections to the rest of the UK and beyond are vital for Cornwall. While investment in superfast broadband is delivering new and more environmentally sustainable ways of working as well as new products and services to local homes, the need to maintain and improve our transport infrastructure is still as important today as it ever was. Ports, roads and the railway all need investment.
Despite the ongoing global economic crisis, progress is being made. Partnership working between Cornwall Council and government departments is enabling the pooling of budgets to improve transport infrastructure such as at Lighterage quay in Truro. Making the sum greater than the individual parts is more important now than ever.
I was pleased that the bidding document for the new Great Western Rail franchise was published on Friday and will enable at least as good a service as we have now to continue with the real prospect of some significant improvements. I was particularly pleased that two of the rail services I had argued should have been included in the franchise were, the Maritime Branch line and the Penzance to Paddington sleeper service both featuring in the franchise bidding document. I know how valued both these services are and it is good to see that their continued operation is now beyond doubt.
I am also delighted that Plymouth could get a three hour service to London. I hope the bidders for the franchise respond to my request, backed up by the Local Enterprise Partnership, that we have an additional through service from Penzance stopping at Truro that forms the fast service from Plymouth onwards. This would enable a three and half hour Truro to Paddington service. An early train in the morning returning later the same day would be great news for people who need to spend a day in the London area. While I applaud Cornwall Council for investing in Newquay airport, despite the very tough times they are coping with, I don't think it is prudent to rely solely on the airport for the speed of connectivity demanded by businesses investing in Cornwall today.
International connectivity is also of great importance to our world class higher education and research bodies based in Truro, Penryn and Falmouth. These are academic institutions that I want to see thrive and prosper and that need first class transport links in order to do so.
In the weeks and months ahead as I get my shirt sleeves rolled up and work along with my colleagues on the detail of the franchise I will have one purpose and that is to improve the quality of rail services for my constituents. This will also include improving linkages to bus services and those travelling by cycle to catch a train as well as ticketing and of course prices.
As ever your views would be very helpful to me as this work continues. Copies of the franchise document can be accessed online at www.dft.gov.uk/publications/great-western-franchise-2013, hard copies can be obtained by calling my office on 01872 274 760.