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£150m Rail Boost For Cornwall
4:15pm 3rd July 2014
(Updated 4:15pm 3rd July 2014)
Almost £150m is being spent to get Cornwall's trains back on track.
It will mean around 60 new jobs at a rail depot in Penzance, servicing the sleeper, which is being refurbished and upgraded.
Signalling work is going to start five years earlier than expected - meaning trips into and through the Duchy are going to get faster.
The government says it paves the wave for half hourly services on the mainline, although that depends on whether rail companies want to run them.
David Cameron is visiting the Duchy to announce the £146m package, after the winter storms sliced through Cornwall's rail connection at Dawlish.
The Prime Minister 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.
"This is an important announcement, a better sleeper service, more jobs and investment at this depot here in Penzance, and then crucially over £100 million on signalling which is potentially going to double the capacity of our rail network here in Cornwall.
"The story about rail use here in Cornwall is really remarkable, over the last fifteen years it's more than doubled, it's a huge success story and it's going to be even more successful with this investment we're putting in today."
But campaigners say a new rail route into the southwest is needed, to stop a repeat of the winter's disruption when the line was left suspended over surging seas at Dawlish.
Local MP Andrew George said: "What the operators will not want is to have a train care centre at the end of an unreliable line. So what this will do is very significantly strengthen the case for a resilient line."
The package includes £9m of funding from the Department for Transport, £29.6m secured through Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, £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.
Bert Biscoe from Cornwall Council 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.
Mark Hopwood, First Great Western managing director, said: "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."
Government graphic on rail plans for Cornwall
Dick Cliffe, the Chairman of Penzance Chamber of Commerce said: "This is an important rail package for Cornwall and specifically Penzance which gains new jobs and safeguards others with the creation of the new Railcare Centre at Long Rock, on the outskirts of Penzance.
"I cannot over-state the importance of the mainline rail service to the economy of Penzance and West Cornwall generally. Modern signalling is not a subject to make the heart race but once in place it will greatly increase the capacity of the rail network in Cornwall. The improvements to sleeper service, both the refits and the additional capacity, will be very welcome.
"This £146 million rail package is an example of effective partnership between Cornwall Council, the LEP and two rail industry partners. It has required meticulous preparation but it has delivered an important result for Cornwall and particularly Penzance.
"There is unfinished business regarding the rail vulnerability at Dawlish but that does not detract from the significance of the £146 million rail package announced today."
4:15pm 3rd July 2014
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