The Government has announced today (officially that is) a series of major improvements to Cornwall’s rail network. This new funding totals £146.6m and 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.
Considering more than 6.5m passengers use the rail network in Cornwall every year, this is excellent news for Cornwall’s rail network. This investment will see a major programme of signalling improvements starting five years earlier than planned, providing faster journeys between Penzance and Totnes. More importantly, these improvements will pave the way for the potential introduction of half-hourly services on the Cornish mainline. It is the half-hourly service on the mainline which have the most positive impact on an integrated transport system.
The deal will also include the interior of the Night Riviera Sleeper trains will be completely overhauled. This service is one of only two sleeper services in the UK and runs between Penzance and London. Further to this, the Long Rock train maintenance site at Penzance will be expanded to maintain Cornwall’s sleeper trains. This will safeguard jobs and will create new training opportunities. So this is good news for Penzance.
Credit must go to all who worked towards this deal. It has been a long and complex process and I am glad in amongst all the cuts, there is still some good news to be had. Well done, well done indeed.
The Government has just announced a massive investment in the countries rail network to the tune of £9 billion. You would think this would be good news, but for Cornwall it might not be.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has told Cornwall Council that it plans to cut the three of the nine direct services to and from London. The DfT has included these reductions in the Invitation to Tenders, which Great Western Rail Franchise is part of. This is a bitter blow to the council who have invested over £35m in the local rail network over the last decade.
Cornwall Council understands the importance of the rail network in Cornwall to both business and leisure. It showed this commitment by helping to meet the cost of upgrading the signalling, station improvements, and other infrastructure improvements. The council has been rewarded for this investment by a reduction to the service.
The council lobbied for a 30 minute mainline service in Cornwall. Sadly this has in reality been turned down as the DfT has said this would be up to the operator and would place no obligation on the operator to do this.
It is not all bad news, as the Truro to Falmouth service will become part of the deal. This is because the service is now financially viable. This means Cornwall Council does not have to subsidise the service anymore. This also means it does not get a share of the profits either!
Let’s hope the serious lobbying to safeguard the current service to MP’s, Member of the House of Lords and other key people by Cornwall Council pay’s off. As if not, the council has given a warning to the DfT it will campaign on all levels to make sure the current service continues.
But will the DfT listen? Answers on a postcard
Cornwall Rural Community Council is undertaking a survey on behalf of Cornwall Council to identify people’ views on rail transport in the Duchy. This information will be used to shape how the Council negotiates the forthcoming re-franchising of rail services in Cornwall.
For me, I rarely use the train because of where I live, and I can hardly see the mass opening of the old stations ever happening to make me use the train. However those who do, or who might, could give a steer on how future services could be run.
The timescale for this piece of work is tight, and responses to the questionnaire need to be completed by the 13th January 2012. So if you want to have your say, click on the link below!