This week, the House of Commons took a decision to expand Heathrow Airport with an additional runway. This has been a long running and contentious debate but in the end there was a substantial majority of MPs from all parties supporting the project. There could be opportunities for Cornwall by opening up new routes to and from Newquay, improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that the new runway at Heathrow could see over 200,000 passengers fly between Newquay and London in the future, helping to secure the future of Newquay Airport which was once in doubt.
We are also making progress improving things on long haul journeys. From the moment I was elected, I fought to get an upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service, which has now been introduced. I am a regular and devoted user of the sleeper service, using it every weekend to get down to Camborne. I know how important the service can be for businesses and visitors alike and I am pleased that it will be able to provide more capacity and better facilities to compete with other forms of transport.
However, the majority of people in Cornwall use public transport primarily for local journeys and that is where there is more to do. For me, the key to making things work better is to try to integrate or join up the bus network with the rail network more effectively than we have done in the past. This will allow rail and bus timetables to work in tandem to give people more frequent options to get from one destination to another.
I have long pressed for a regular and routine 30 minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages. If we could join up commercial trunk routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that could really work and you could build more confidence in the public transport network. This is now being made a reality.
The Department for Transport has also confirmed that from the summer there will be 29 new Intercity Express trains running on the London to Penzance Great Western Route, replacing the aged 40 year-old-stock and providing more than 1,000 extra peak time seats. This is great news for Cornwall.