In a peninsula like Cornwall, there will always be challenges to building a resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made in the last few years. We have invested to improve our railways and there is now a regular half hourly service running through Cornwall which has led to a significant increase in passenger numbers.
We have also seen the introduction of the new fleet of Tinner buses marking a major step forward in the quality of our bus network. It’s good to see some local branding on the buses with a nod to the industrial history of the area but, more importantly, the quality of the service has improved.
The Government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport with will also see opportunities for Cornwall, opening up new routes, improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that a new runway 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.
But when we need to travel, the journey will usually be long and we must make the journey as comfortable as possible. Great Western’s decision to remove the buffet carriage from its services to and from Cornwall has been a terrible mistake. The trolley service marks a major backward step in the quality of the service. On a busy train the trolley can’t even move and it is not fair on staff who have to try to make the best of a bad job. I will continue to press for the buffet carriage to be reinstated as part of the next franchise negotiation.
However, for most people in Cornwall, it is the local service that matters most and 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 and this is now starting to come together. If we could join up commercial 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. We now have the more regular train service and the next step is to increase the use of buses in conjunction with the rail service.