Luke believes improving transport links to and from Plymouth and the far south west is key to increasing economic growth and investment in the region.

The far south-west is a beautiful part of the world, full of innovative businesses, a superb tourism economy and the potential to deliver much more. But Plymouth has neither an airport nor a motorway and despite being the largest city on the south coast journey times to the capital are slower and its transport spend is smaller.

The far south west does not get our fair share of funding from Government and we have been underfunded compared to other regions in the UK. Luke has been campaigning since before he was elected to get the region’s fair share of support and funding from the government.

In the 2017 General Election Luke published his transport manifesto setting out how he would campaign on the four key strategic transport weaknesses affecting Plymouth. These campaigns would seek to improve Plymouth’s air, road, rail and sea connections creating more jobs, increasing productivity and supporting our local economy. These were:

  1. Campaign for a fast and resilient railway
  2. Campaign to extend the M5 from Exeter to the Tamar Bridge
  3. Campaign to re-open Plymouth airport
  4. Campaign for a cruise terminal at Millbay

What is the funding gap?

  • The funding gap for transport in the south-west is real. The Treasury’s country and regional analysis publication shows that, in 2015-16, the total identified Government expenditure on transport in the south-west was £277 per head. In London, the figure was £973 per head highlighting how we don’t get our fair share of funding.
  • Spending in London is three and a half times that in the south-west, relative to population size.
  • Spending in the south-west is the second lowest of all English regions, with only the east midlands being lower at £260 per head. These figures are greater when spending on transport infrastructure is factored in.
  • The Treasury’s figures on public expenditure on rail by year and region from 2015-16 state that the figure for London is £5.16 billion, while the south-west gets £357 million.

Luke Pollard MP says:

“I am proud to be a Janner—someone from Plymouth. Having been born there and as we live there, we all know that there is one thing in which we can instinctively believe: our train line is not good enough, and other regions get more money. As a region we have been given, and have accepted, a poor deal from Government for too long.

Across nearly all areas of Government spending, the south-west, particularly the far south-west, receives below-average spend. In education, health, housing, road and rail the south-west lags at the bottom of the spending league tables. We need to change that, and we need to do it together.

Below are Luke’s top four main transport priorities covering rail, road, air and sea:


Decades of under-investment means the far south west’s only rail line is slower, more precarious and prone to disruption, than it should be. No other region would accept a railway that closes or is so fragile, so why should we?

Luke has been campaigning to cut journey times from Plymouth to London from an average of three hours and 30 minutes to two hours and 15 minutes. This is the ambition set out in the Peninsular Rail Task Force’s recommendations to Government. This cross-party body was created by Conservative councils in the region but only Labour backs its recommendations at a national level.

In the storms of 2014, the railway at Dawlish was literally washed away, costing the region £1bn in lost economic output. Despite the then Prime Minister David Cameron promising “money would be no object” to fix the trainline, five years on the trainline still closes during storms. Luke has been consistently campaigning for proper long-term funding for the Dawlish train line, in line with the recommendations of the Peninsula Rail Task Force.

Jeremy Corbyn has backed Luke’s plan and committed Labour to £2.5bn on rail upgrades in the South West – funding the next ten years of essential upgrades for the only train line in and out of the region. The Conservatives have not matched this pledge.

On February 15, 2019, the government announced £80m for immediate work on the train line at Dawlish. This was after Luke twice used Prime Minister’s Questions to press the PM on Dawlish funding. However, that amount will only cover some of the resilience work, and Luke has pledged to continue to fight for the remaining funding to stabilize the cliffs.


Plymouth needs better road and rail connections. Since being elected, the Labour MP has called for the extension of the M5 from Exeter to the Tamar Bridge to improve connectivity and business investment in Plymouth and also improve road safety. Luke believes that extending the M5 to the Tamar Bridge will symbolically demonstrate the world does not end at Exeter and that the far south west is truly open for business. Motorways are also the safest roads on the network and we know the A38 is dangerous with far too many people having lost their lives on this road.

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, visited Plymouth in 2018 and backed the extension, calling the work “vital for the success of the south west economy.”

In May 2018, Labour confirmed that the next Labour Government confirmed would commission a study that would look at extending the A38 from Exeter to Plymouth, what work is required to upgrade the road to motorway standard, what parts could be reclassified as a motorway without additional work and what the approximate cost of this work could be and how that work could be spread over the long-term, including what planned upgrades are in the pipeline, to mitigate costs.

The study would then provide an evidence base for future investment decisions to be made against. The next Labour Government would commission the Highways Agency to lead this work and take input from local businesses, stakeholders, Local Enterprise Partnerships, councils and members of the public.


Plymouth City Airport closed under a Conservative Council and a Conservative Government in 2010. Since then, Luke has campaigned to have the airport reopened. A new Plymouth airport would improve business links and bring investment into our city.

Since he was elected Luke has been working as the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation. In that role, he has worked with MPs of all parties to protect airfields and re-open airports like Plymouth. Luke is the current Parliamentary lead of the All-Party Group’s Airfields Working Party.


Plymouth has a superb and growing tourism offer. Whether for domestic or international visitors Plymouth has so much to offer. We now have over 5million day visitors a year and our ambition as a city must be to increase this number, creating jobs and bringing money to our city especially its waterfront and historic Barbican. Mayflower 400 offers the chance to hugely promote our city’s tourist offer and create new infrastructure that would develop our visitor economy further. We already have crusie ships visiting the city where passengers tender off. Mayflower 400 has provided an opportunity for more cruise ships to visit Plymouth in 2020. Luke wants to build on this success and since being elected has been campaigning for the creation of a cruise ship terminal in Millbay. This would provide power and facilities for cruise ships as well as letting more passengers visit our city, spending money in our shops, bars and cafes. This is a long-term campaign that will take many years to achieve but it is a fight worth fighting according to Luke.


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