After years of campaigning, there's big news for the South West. If elected on 8 June the next Labour Government will fund £2.5bn of rail improvements for the South West meaning faster, more resilient rail journeys for Plymouth.
Labour plans biggest overhaul of railways in the south- west for forty years
Labour announces £2.5bn for much-needed rail improvements in the South West
Investment at Dawlish, signalling upgrades and electrification will deliver faster
more resilient journeys
Investment paves the way for a new Dawlish Avoidance Line
As part of its industrial strategy to build a 21st century economy for the many, not the few, Labour will today commit to funding the major modernisation and electrification of railways across the South-West.
The next Labour government will commit £2.5bn from its National Transformation Fund to improve the resilience of lines still affected by the 2014 storms at Dawlish, and provide faster, modernised services from London right to the heart of Cornwall, more than forty years after the last major investment in the service.
On recommendations from the Peninsula Rail Taskforce, backed by local authorities across the South-West, the improved rail services will deliver dramatically faster journey times from London to major cities like Plymouth and Exeter, unlocking a potential £7.2bn boost to the South West economy.
And Labour will deliver the £15m gap funding needed to complete Plymouth Station improvements, helping deliver additional investment from major local funders to improve the public realm at the heart of the city.
But under the Tories, planned transport investment is just £212 per head, compared to over £1,900 for London. London is set to receive more than half of all England’s planned transport investment. Labour will reverse years of Tory underinvestment in transport for the South-West of England.
Alongside the commitment to invest, Labour will help ensure the prosperity of Cornwall, Somerset and Devon by implementing a bold industrial strategy that sets national missions to address societal challenges like climate change and automation.
With Cornwall hosting one of the fastest-growing digital economies in the country, digital turnover growing 154% in just four years, the potential for prosperity right across the South-West is clear – if the government is prepared to commit to the support the region’s high-potential business need to succeed.
A Labour government will use all policy levers available to galvanise business to meet these challenges including effective use of public procurement, support for strategic sectors and investment in skills, R&D and infrastructure like modern rail services and superfast broadband.
Labour’s industrial strategy for growth will ensure prosperity in every corner of the country for the many not the few.
Luke Pollard, long standing campaigner for rail upgrades in the South West and Labour’s candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“A decent railway is one of Plymouth’s top priorities. We need better road, rail, sea and air connections and today’s announcement paves the way for the faster and more resilient rail journeys our city needs. Better connectivity means more jobs and that’s why improving our transport links has been such a key part of Labour’s campaign.”
“If Labour wins the election this investment would meet the key regional demands of improved speed, comfort and resilience on our railway. Now that London is listening to Plymouth we can start to focus on the longer-term needs of the railway such as the Dawlish Avoiding Line.”
Sue Dann, Labour’s candidate in Plymouth Moor View said:
“Labour’s £2.5bn railway upgrade package shows that the Labour Party understands the priority needs of the South West of England and will make the money available to fund those priorities without delay.
“The South West gets a raw deal from the Conservatives in London. We get just one seventh of the money London gets. I don’t accept the poor deal the Tories give us and that’s why I have been campaigning for additional rail upgrades for Plymouth.
“As a region we have had enough of the empty pledges from the Conservatives. Labour is the only party in this election with a costed plan for the railway upgrades our region needs. The Tories have offered us nothing but press releases and broken promises.”
Jeremy Corbyn speaking today said:
“This is a major investment in a part of our country that has been held back by the Tories for too long. Unlike the Tories we’ll deliver the investment funding the South West needs to deliver decent, secure jobs and living standards.
“The next Labour government will make sure that every area, every region can reach its full potential through investment in the foundations of a modern economy that works for the many, not the few.”
Notes to editors:
The Peninsula Rail Taskforce full proposals are at Peninsula Rail Taskforce (November 2016), “Closing the Gap: the South West peninsula strategic rail blueprint”, at: https://peninsularailtaskforce.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/prtf- closing-the-gap.pdf
The Peninsula Rail Taskforce long-term plan will reduce regular journey times from London to Exeter to just over two hours, Plymouth to well under three, and Penzance to under four. See “Closing the Gap:...”, p.12, based on current timetabled service.
These investments include completing Dawlish seawall and cliffs resilience, the diversionary route between Exeter and Castle Cary, and improving estuary flood protection and an ambitious programme of electrification along the main line to Penzance.
The Peninsula Rail Task Force is a partnership of local authorities and LEPs: Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Plymouth City Council, Somerset County Council and Torbay Council plus Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and Heart of the South West LEP. Formed in 2012 in response to severe weather damage to the region’s rail network, the group has a Government commission to develop a strategic rail investment plan across the South West.
Tech Nation’s 2016 “Digital Nation Report” found that Truro, Redruth and Camborne digital economy turnover grew 154% over 2010-2014, second in the UK and significantly faster than London’s. See: http://www.techcityuk.com/wp- content/uploads/2016/02/Tech-Nation-2016_FINAL-ONLINE-1.pdf
The Heart of the South-West Local Economic Partnership (May 2016), “Economic Appraisal of Rail Upgrade Proposals” estimated that £7.2bn could be added to the economy of the South-West through direct and indirect impacts of improved linespeeds London-Penzance. See: https:// peninsularailtaskforce.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/heart-of-the-south- west_draft_final_13051016.pdf
Figures on bias of national transport investment is from Blakeley, G. (2017), “Paying for Our progress: how will the Northern Powerhouse be financed and funded?”, IPPR North. Available at: http://www.ippr.org/files/publications/pdf/ paying-for-our-progress_Feb2017.pdf?noredirect=1
Luke Pollard and Cllr Sue Dann have been long-term campaigners for rail upgrades in the South West.