HotSW LEP welcomes rail investment but urges Government for full commitment

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) welcomes the £80m investment in the Dawlish rail line announced on Friday, but says the answer to addressing the region’s connectivity lies in commitment to the delivery of the whole scheme, not just the section at Dawlish.

The LEP – which is charged with raising economic prosperity across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay – also calls the Government to account for the rest of the necessary investment in connectivity for the daulling of the A303 and improving broadband to enable businesses to raise their productivity.

The damage to the mainline railway in 2014 cost the region an estimated £1.2bn, and further investment in resilience and reliability, as well as better internet speed and coverage, has the potential to bring transformational growth in GVA and productivity for the area. The Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy aims to double the economy to £70 billion by 2038, and connectivity is critical to its success.

The full announcement is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/grayling-announces-new-dawlish-sea-wall-as-part-of-2-billion-investment-in-south-west and the main points for the area are:

  • Dual carriageway infrastructure is being upgraded across in the South West, connecting Camborne to the M5 at Exeter, and the M5 at Taunton to the M3 at Basingstoke. The Government sees these improvements as part of a plan which will ultimately extend to Penzance.
  • The A361 at North Devon is being widened in multiple places, in a scheme of improvements costing £83m.
  • A further £23m is earmarked for the Forder Valley Link Road at Plymouth, for which HotSW LEP was involved in the original bid through its Growth Deal

The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling stated in his foreword:

‘No region can thrive without decent transport links. People across the South West rely on such links for work, education, leisure and access to essential services. Last year over 23 million people visited the South West, confirming its place as one of our greatest natural assets.’

Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP said:

“The LEP echoes the points made by the Secretary of State, and makes the case that it’s not just visitors that our economy relies upon, we have robust sectors in Nuclear, Marine, Big Data, and Food Farming and Fishing as well as tourism.

“So whilst we very much welcome the investment announced last week, we continue to campaign with our partners to secure commitment for the rest of the essential works at Parson’s Tunnel between Dawlish and Teignmouth.

“It’s been over 5 years since the railway collapsed, and investment in a resilient, reliable rail connection is crucial to the South West. As well as this we re-iterate the need for improved road routes to the region, notably the dualling of the A303, and the crucial investment needed for broadband, to fully enable us to raise productivity and prosperity and increase our contribution to the national economy.”