Labour will help re-open Plymouth's airport and train cut journey times between Plymouth and London if elected on Thursday.
Andrew Adonis is a big beast in Labour transport terms. A former Secretary of State for Transport in the last Labour Government he is now Labour's Shadow Infrastructure Minister and having him visit Plymouth is an essential part of Plymouth Labour's plan for better transport connectivity. Andrew saw the closed airport site and spoke to Alison Seabeck, Tudor Evans and myself about how the airport could be re-opened and what support Plymouth requires.
We also spoke about the need for better train connectivity and I was pleased that he spoke about the possibility of 2h 45min journey times between Plymouth and London with faster new trains, signalling upgrades and better track. This is so important. As you may know I've been calling for journey times as low as 2h 15min by 2040. To get down to this time we need to have a long-term strategy of investment in our train line but I am very encouraged that Andrew backs quicker train times for Plymouth and the wider south west - this is good news for our region.
I'm proud to have been born and live in Plymouth. It's because I'm local that I know that poor transport links affects our competitiveness and sense of pride - poor transport keeps us on the periphery. I want to see better transport and I've made it a key part of my campaign.
Last week Labour announced we would be giving the green light to new trains on day one of a Labour Government - and this is, I hope, just the start of Labour's investment in better transport for the south west. It is time we had a stronger voice in Parliament to argue for the transport improvements we really need and that is what I intend to be.
Luke Pollard, Labour’s candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“We’ve seen countless press releases from the Tories about how they will improve the South West but the truth is after five years in government they have achieved very little. Labour has promised new trains for the railways under a Labour government. No if or buts, this is what we will do if we win in a few days’ time.
Alison Seabeck, Labour’s candidate for Plymouth Moor View, said:
“Plymouth is a vibrant and growing city and to complement that we need resilient and reliable transport networks. Michael Dugher has been to the city to promise prioritising new trains, and now Andrew Adonis has come down to review the airport deal. Labour is listening to people in Plymouth and providing answers.”
Lord Andrew Adonis, Labour’s business and transport expert, said:
“The Tories continue to offer studies and surveys on reopening the airport, but we don’t need more surveys that tell us things we already know. What we need is action, and the Tories have failed to come up with the things we need. We need to make it a priority to take action on the airport.”
Better transport links are essential if Plymouth is to succeed.
Since the airport closed - under a Tory Council and a Tory Government - we have lost out to fast connections to other parts of the UK and further afield. I spent the last six years working in aviation, travel and tourism and I know just how important air connections are. I want to see the airport re-opened.
There are four things that must happen to re-open the airport in my opinion:
1. The airport land must be safeguarded for aviation use - this has already been done by the Labour Council until 2030 which is the latest the land can be safeguarded by law. This means the leaseholder, Sutton Harbour Holdings, cannot build houses on the runway in this time.
2. Viable, who are the only group that wants to re-open the airport, must be a business and not a campaign group. People with petitions do not open airports, businesses do. That's why I've called on Viable to rebrand and reposition themselves as an aviation business that serious backers can get behind. I've also told Viable that they must be non-party political. They should work with all political parties and not allow themselves or their issues to be captured by any one political party (including Labour). Businesses work best when they stand apart from the political fray and work with everyone for the best outcome. Finally, Viable need to demonstrate their aviation expertise with reputable figures from aviation working alongside the team who have got the organisation to where it is today. Viable must carry the confidence of the aviation industry as well as Plymouth and investors. Without this their credibility - and the chances of re-opening the airport - is greatly reduced. I've spoken to Viable about this many times and I'm hopeful they will take my suggestions on board.
3. Viable need to demonstrate a clear business plan for re-opening the airport. Whether this is starting with General Aviation (small private planes) and then working up to scheduled airline services via a functioning heliport or otherwise I want to see Viable present a clear plan - that's able to stand up to scrutiny - so that the public, the City Council, the Government and investors can see the plan. Everything they promise must be deliverable - building confidence in their ability to deliver is essential to get momentum behind their efforts.
4. We need action not more reviews. The Tories announced yet another review into the airport just before Parliament dissolved. We don't need anymore studies - we need funding and action to help the airport re-open. Having worked in aviation I've spoken to people I know in Whitehall and Westminster about this review and it is held in poor regard as a pre-election stunt by the Tories. If the Tories are serious they need to publish a serious scope, timeline and details of funding for the review. Without that it is a political stunt that risks setting us back not taking us forward.
Let me know what you think about re-opening the airport and better transport connectivity in the comments.